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What’s In a Name? …A lot.

October 10th, 2013

Washington Redskins helmet. Photo credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via CC

Usually when there’s controversy in sports, it’s about a play, a strategy, or a referee’s call. But there’s a big debate brewing right now about one sports team’s … name.

The Washington Redskins is a football team steeped in tradition and history, but members of the Native American community — and a growing number of others — argue that the term “redskins” is racist and derogatory.

Many are calling for the team to change its name.

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder says he won’t change the name, ever. He justifies it saying , “It’s an expression of honor, not disparagement.”

But others, including the Oneida Indian Nation with their Change The Mascot campaign , say that a professional football team should not be promoting a racial slur.

Even President Obama (who’s a little busy these days dealing with the government shutdown) recently joined the discussion saying , “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”

Is there a magic number, though, of how many people it needs to offend before changing it is the right thing to do? 

It’s not just the Washington Redskins. There are other teams with Indian themed names: The Cleveland Indians, The Atlanta Braves, The Chicago Blackhawks, and the Kansas City Chiefs, to name a few. But the term “redskin” is a particularly  disparaging and slang  way to describe Native Americans. The dictionary defines it that way, too, adding that it’s outdated.

It also goes beyond sports teams. The Paul Frank brand recognized their error when they recently represented their monkey logo, Julius, wearing a sacred, traditional Native American head-dress, among other inappropriate depictions. They meant no offense, but they made it right by educating themselves about Native American culture and then collaborating with a variety of Native American designers to make new products that celebrated Native Americans’ rich heritage instead.

Historically, we have not treated Native Americans well. And changing a name may not right past wrongs, but some say it would be a step in the right direction.

What do you think? Should the Washington Redskins change their name?

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89 Comments on “What’s In a Name? …A lot.”

  • Senor Safety says:

    I think the Redskins name is very offensive. It’s hard to believe some people can be so inconsiderate. And draft so poorly, too.

    • go lions says:

      I do not think it is offensive because it could be considered an honor to have a football team named after you. Plus that name is very old and FYI there are some schools that are named the redskins on some Indianan reservations.

  • BOO BEAR says:

    I think that its not offensive i mean like it has been for decades and like you shouldn’t change a tradition. They have a very nice team. If you have a problem with the name and they’re team don’t watch them play. AND GO PACKERS

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