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As a racial slur, the Redskins’ name must go

Greg Ferroni ’16, Hawk Staff
October 22, 2013
Filed under Opinions

Tradition: the reason for the seventh inning stretch, the Pro Bowl, and the dunk contest. Simply reading the teams and players listed on the tiers of the Stanley Cup highlights  the importance of tradition in sports.

Tradition, however, can become outmoded.

Recently, the Washington Redskins have received many complaints, both formally and informally, requesting that the team change its name. By using an offensive term against Native Americans, the Redskins have perpetuated the stereotype throughout their franchise’s history. By refusing to change the name, Washington refuses to confront an error in American history.

Imagine if a team had been formed in the early 20th century with a derogatory nickname against another minority. Would the team have been allowed to keep the nickname this far into the future? Is the nickname “Redskin” allowed to continue because it offends one of the smallest American minorities?

One could argue that other team nicknames reference Native Americans (Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Chiefs, and Chicago Blackhawks). Why, then, do the Redskins receive the most pressure to change their name? Unlike the other native-referenced teams, the Redskins specifically refer to derogatory slang. This does not mean that the Braves, Indians, or Blackhawks should keep their names. However, a reference to a minority pales in comparison to an offensive term against a minority.

In recent years, the other teams have attempted to phase out references to Native Americans. For instance, the Cleveland Indians have removed the Native American caricature from their away and home alternate jerseys. The Braves’ spring training caps this season originally featured a caricature of a Native American on them, but the team quickly removed the image and replaced it with a traditional “A” consistent with their regular hats. While the Indians allow the caricature on their home caps, and the Braves’ logo contains a tomahawk and the infamous “tomahawk chop,” both teams have made efforts to eradicate any offensive connections.

The Redskins refuse to see the line between maintaining tradition and being offensive. Another factor in the debate is the location of the team: Washington, D.C. Not only does the name represent the franchise poorly, but it also represents our nation’s capital poorly.

Because of the immense popularity of the NFL, it would be nearly impossible for mere grievances to pressure the Redskins enough to enact a name change. The two men who can pressure the team the most are Roger Goodell and President Barack Obama. Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, has the ability to penalize the team through fining, losing draft picks, or forcing the team to change its name.

Obama can also greatly influence the team. The team represents the nation’s capitol, and as president, Obama can lobby against the name. Efforts can also be made to force the team to leave Washington, D.C., or at least prevent them from claiming they are the team of the city.

The importance of tradition cannot supersede the importance of equality and tolerance of all peoples.


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