General Question

JimTurner's avatar

Should the Washington Redskins change their name?

Asked by JimTurner (1360 points ) December 3rd, 2013

Every year around this time there is a debate among those who follow one of the professional football teams, the Washington Redskins.

Some say it is a racist slur others believe the total opposite and say that the team is honoring Native Americans and the name harbors no disrespect.

Is it time for the Nation’s Capital to employ another trademark and brand?

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53 Answers

ibstubro's avatar

Nah. They should just change their logo to a potato, to appease the thin skinned.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

Hi Jim, this is a really tough one for me, a Redskins fan.

Yes, the debate’s been simmering for many years. Usually, the topic emerges briefly and then disappears just as quickly. This year, however, the issue’s been getting some lingering attention, including organized protests at away stadiums.

I’d hate to see the name go, but I’m sensitive to the fact that it’s clearly a racist slur with an ugly history. For a long time, I’ve been saying exactly what @ibstubro wrote – let’s just change the mascot to a redskin potato; it would be silly, but it wouldn’t offend anyone.

ragingloli's avatar

It is about as tasteful as a sports team in Germany calling itself the “Hooknoses” and using this logo.
Imagine the outrage.
And no one would be screaming “goddamn political correctness” at the suggestion to change the name and logo.

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, they should. Stanford did 40 years ago, it has not been a problem identifying them or keeping fans. So why do they need to keep a racist name?

Juels's avatar

Meh, names change. Once we change the Redskins to a p.c. name, they’ll find something else to harp on. I just tune them out.

JimTurner's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul It seems that everything these days has to be so Politically Correct. The owner says he will stand by the name.

Someone asked the question in an article I read “what if the team were called the Darkies” wouldn’t blacks be offened?” I don’t no, probably.

I grew up watching the Washington Bullets basketball team and now they are the Wizards.

tom_g's avatar

@JimTurner: “Some say it is a racist slur others believe the total opposite and say that the team is honoring Native Americans and the name harbors no disrespect.”

If the intention of the silly sports team is to “honor Native Americans” (shit, that’s a whole other topic), then why don’t they ask what Native Americans think about “redskin”? But maybe they don’t give a shit, and feel that it doesn’t matter since it’s ok to be racist towards this group. I don’t know. But I do know that if it was the Washington Niggers, Blackies, Kikes, Spics, or Chinks, this conversation would have a different tone altogether. Not many people would be able to come here and complain that this is merely political correctness.

JimTurner's avatar

@tom_g Good response tom._g. Thanks

ragingloli's avatar

They could just adopt the name of one the real world native american tribes.
There is a massive list to choose from

pleiades's avatar

I’ve heard on the radio that some Native Americans actually like it? Which I have no clue! It’s the AM radio for crying out loud.

I do think they should change their name though. I mean, I personally don’t find it offensive, but if a good number think it is, it must be so. I don’t believe one should “not hear” what those who are offended by it are saying.

Look, listen I’m going to say this gently. If you are white, you can have as demeaning an opinion about those who are against the name Redskins, but you’ll never know what it’s like to be in the light of that minority. (And in this case a minority practically wiped off it’s own continent through genocide.) [ and no I have nothing against white people as a matter of fact my father if full blown Jewish American, and yeah the coalition against the name Redskins does have an overwhelmingly supportive group in the white liberal community, maybe there is a thing such a commonsense? I mean if one is of the opinion to just, “Leave the name alone it hurts no one, heritage blah blah blah.” Then they obviously aren’t being open minded to the offended peoples beliefs.

Florida St. has the Seminoles, I don’t see what could be wrong about choosing a new name, if they’re so obsessed with keeping the tradition haha.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

A same-gender couple in my neighborhood had a vanity license tag – “Two Dykes.” Many people were offended and protested, so the state recalled the tag. Then, there was a counter-movement to defend the ladies and get the tag reissued to them. Some other people believed that the women had the right to call themselves “dykes” if they so chose, and why should anyone have taken offense?

I usually jump on the live-and-let-live bandwagon, but I had to think about this one. Change one letter on that license plate and make it “Two Kykes.” Now, should someone be allowed to drive around with that slur, at his/her discretion? No, I don’t think so.

To me, “dyke” is a hateful and derogatory word; I won’t use it. I fully understand that some members of the lesbian community have adopted it and say it freely, to remove the hate and dilute the word’s power.

The same thing for the “n-word.” Some African Americans use it freely, but should any state issue a license tag for “Nigger”? No.

These questions aren’t easy, are they?

pleiades's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul Are there any Native Americans who own the Redskins franchise? If so you may have a valid point, if not you’re example is off topic

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@JimTurner I detest the name “Wizards.” Yuck, it’s just plain silly, and I wish Abe Pollin had chosen something better. Yet, I understood why he had to get rid of the name Bullets, at a time when D.C. was the murder capital of the nation and handgun violence was so rampant.

By the way, Earl the Pearl is a friend of a friend, and I’ve met him at numerous events. He refuses to call the team anything except the Baltimore Bullets. In his heart, that’s what the team is and will always be.

tom_g's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul: “These questions aren’t easy, are they?”

I think they are real easy.

As for this particular question, make sure you remember that we’re talking about a sport’s team – not someone’s personal expression on their vehicle, or whether or not they choose to reclaim an offensive term as their own.

JimTurner's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul The Great “Earl the Pearl” Monroe. While growing up and playing street ball in the city some of us would use his name. Others would call themselves Phil Chenier, Elvin Hayes or Wes Unseld.

Juels's avatar

My husband and daughter (and hubby’s entire family) have a Native American heritage. They do not find it offensive. In fact, they are annoyed by the controversy. I am not offended by every non-pc term out there.

Juels's avatar

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re offended, then stand up for yourself. I just refuse to be offended because someone told me to be. I don’t care if the Redskins change their name or not. Team names change, it happens. Get over it.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@tom_g A license plate isn’t just a personal expression on someone’s vehicle. That would be a bumper sticker. A license plate is a state-issued, and therefore government-sanctioned, item for vehicle identification purposes. In many (if not most) states, people don’t own their tags; they “rent” them indefinitely, and they eventually need to surrender them.

On a lighter note, I read that there’s a massive database for vetting license tag requests. If someone tries to spell the “f-word” in, say, Swahili or Scottish-Gaelic, the program will flag it as inappropriate.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@pleiades No, the Redskins franchise is owned by a weasel named Dan Snyder.

@JimTurner Ah, Wes Unseld, a brilliant player, fan favorite, and, sadly, dreadful head coach.

tom_g's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul: ”@tom_g A license plate isn’t just a personal expression on someone’s vehicle. That would be a bumper sticker. A license plate is a state-issued, and therefore government-sanctioned, item for vehicle identification purposes. In many (if not most) states, people don’t own their tags; they “rent” them indefinitely, and they eventually need to surrender them.”

Wait, are you saying that you can get a novelty plate that has “Two Dykes” on the bottom, and it has the unique alphanumeric identifier as well? Or are you saying that someone chose “Two Dykes” as their unique license plate number? If it’s the latter, of course it’s just expression. And while I don’t see it as “government-sanctioned”, I also don’t think it would be relevant to this conversation even if it was. The issue of people using certain racial terms is not really relevant to whether a sport’s team should consider changing its name.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@tom_g I’m not following you, Tom.

Are you saying that a license plate is a personal object, and not a matter of public concern, so my comparison to a sports team’s name has no relevance? Except for the Green Bay Packers, all sports franchises are privately owned by, as you put it, people. So, I guess it’s the owner’s prerogative to call his team whatever he wants. Just as a license plate is personal expression, so is the name of a team. Certainly, that’s the position taken by the Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, who vehemently refuses to change the team’s name.

On the other side of the private v. public argument, all but a few sports teams play in stadiums financed by state and municipal money. Just as the sovereign can recall or refuse to issue a particular license plate on the basis of public policy, shouldn’t the public have a say in which team gets to play in its venues, and under what names?

JLeslie's avatar

I think Native Americans should get to decide. In my opinion it is an honor, in the sense that a team’s mascot is usually beloved and represents something positive. But, if it is offensive to Native Americans their opinion counts most as far as I am concerned. Is there a name they can pick that still would be representative of Native Americans, but not be so controversial?

El_Cadejo's avatar

@ragingloli and @tom_g pretty much summed up my feeling on the matter. It’s astounding that it’s “ok” to have a racial slur as a team name. But then again this is the good ol US of A we’re talking about, we don’t have a history of fucking their people over or anything…..

I also really don’t understand this whole honoring them argument. Around here we have some football teams called Seneca and Lenape. Those names are honoring Native Americans, not red skins.

I heard New Mexico is getting a team in the NFL. I think they said they were going to call them the Wet Backs. That’s cool right?

JimTurner's avatar

@JLeslie The Algonquians and Iroquois were two tribes that settled near the Chesapeak Bay. I don’t know if anyone ever thought of using these names.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli Imagine Germany’s capital city sports team being called the hooknoses? Even though the name is annoying, I think most of us Jews would get a little kick out of Germany cheering on the team and making a Jewish image a mascot. I don’t know if the image used for the Redskins is offensive itself. I think feathered headreses are still used by tribes and can reperesent accomplishments they have made or places of honor.

ragingloli's avatar

You do not honour someone by using a racial slur.

JLeslie's avatar

My junior high was the Warriors (happens to be a suburb of DC) and I think they changed it to the mustangs. I assume because of controversy over this same topic. I think it would have been better to change it to something still referencing Native Americans.

JLeslie's avatar

@ragingloli I never here people say hooknoses ever. I knew what you meant, but I almost never hear slurs used for Jews. Stereotypes yes, but not slurs. It would bother me a lot, so if the Native Americans feel it is a slur to use Redskins we should change it.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I can’t understand why anyone would describe the Redskins team name as “honoring” native Americans. Slang terms for ethnic groups, based upon physical characteristics such as complexion tone, are slurs that differentiate between the speaker and the target. In fact, the man who chose the team’s name, decades ago, was a notorious racist. The team’s song, “Hail to the Redskins,” originally contained some very offensive language that had to be removed.

What surprises me somewhat is the lack of consensus among Native Americans. Some, apparently, aren’t offended by the term “redskins” and don’t support changing the team’s name. Would any African American groups state, at public forums and in print media, that it’s okay to call a team, say, the “Darkies”?

What also surprises me is the general lack of outrage about the Cleveland Indians’ mascot – a grotesque cartoon of a grinning Indian. Granted, the term “redskins” is racist, while the word “Indians” arguably isn’t, but why aren’t people demanding the end of that insulting mascot? At least the Washington Redskins use a dignified image as their mascot.

JLeslie's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul It is honoring them, because teams don’t usually pick a mascot they hate. I do think the name of a tribe would be better. As far as Indians, some Native Americans still prefer to be called Indians. Pretty much all of my black friends (real life friends who I have known for years) prefer to be called black over African American. Although, obviously there are some names they would find offensive. Maybe Native Americans still refer to caucasians as the white man? I have no idea. I don’t know if that is a slur if they do say it?

I’m sending this Q to yarnlady, it will be interesting to hear her opinion. I wish redpowerlady was here still. She is very invloved with her Native American culture.

tom_g's avatar

@SadieMartinPaul: “Are you saying that a license plate is a personal object, and not a matter of public concern, so my comparison to a sports team’s name has no relevance?”

Yes

@SadieMartinPaul: “Except for the Green Bay Packers, all sports franchises are privately owned by, as you put it, people. So, I guess it’s the owner’s prerogative to call his team whatever he wants.”

First of all, I agree that it is his right to call the team whatever he wants. I completely support his right to rename his team the Washington Coons and have the logo be an African American.
And I completely support the right of individuals to be racists and slap a bumper sticker or vanity plate on their car that reflects that.

But don’t you think that there is a difference here between a major sports team who has thousands of fans attending the games every week using a racist term as the name of the team and Joe Bumpedhisheadtoomuch slapping a racist bumper sticker on his car?

I just tried to keep this conversation from getting all loosey and wandering all over the place. Eventually, we’d be getting into “my uncle’s aunt’s sister’s cousin’s friend’s gardener is from Mexico and doesn’t mind ‘spic’”. I’d rather focus on whether or a not it makes sense for a sports team to be called the Washington Redskins (or the Philadelphia Cunts).

@SadieMartinPaul: “Just as a license plate is personal expression, so is the name of a team. Certainly, that’s the position taken by the Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, who vehemently refuses to change the team’s name.”

If Dan Snyder refuses to change the name, good for him. He’ll make it easy for people to determine if they want to support that. But like I said above, if it were a different ethnic group, the situation would be playing out quite differently.

JLeslie's avatar

@tom_g I would argue there is a difference between a bumper sticker snd a sportsteam. Just like a store or restaurant cannot discriminate, even if it is a privately owned business, but I can legally decide not to allow people of a certain race, religion, sexual orientation, etc into my house. In fact, I can legally discriminate not to rent my house to someone, but once I own several places that I rent out, then the laws for discrimination kick in.

JimTurner's avatar

Thank you everyone for taking the time to answer my question. The name Washington Redskins or just “Skins” as we call them in D.C., is a tradition.

When they have a good season the cities inhabitants seem happier and when they are last in the league (like they currently are now) our Mondays are a little sadder.

I personally think the teams current helmets are one of the best in the league and are a lot nicer than the red R in a circle or a red and gold arrow that has been used in the past.

As far as the name Redskins goes one only needs to look at our old Western movies where the phrase “Stinking Redskins” were used constantly by John Wayne and others. If it’s offensive then maybe now we should let it go.

Society had to learn that the word Negro, Nigger and Darky was not the way to address those whose ancestry was part African. Maybe it is time for the Native American to insist he or she not be called anything that isn’t of his own choosing.

Thanks again for your time.

glacial's avatar

Yes. This change is long, long overdue.

ETpro's avatar

I’d leave it up to a vote by Native Americans. Some find the name a matter of racial pride. Others see it as racial stereotyping and offensive. I have no idea how many are in each camp.

Personally, as a white male born to protestants in the solid Jim-Crow South, I would be offended by a team calling themselves the Klansmen, or the Grand Dragons, or the Jim Crows. Unfortunately, if you held a vote among all white males of my heritage even today, they might not agree with me. But change continues to come. We’ll know when racism is truly dead in the US when racially charged terms lose their ability to offend and become curious relics of a past we have outgrown.

JLeslie's avatar

@ETpro I really like your answer, except I am not sure I agree with the last line. Will some words eventually actually lose their ability to offend so much so that it is ok to use them again?

ucme's avatar

Maybe they should sign up players exclusively named George, surname so as to show up on their shirts, they could then rebrand themselves as the Washington George’s, although use of the apostrophe is a little cumbersome looking.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

Only recruit players of Native American ancestry.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

Or, better yet, the very smallest of name changes, add an apostrophe at the end, Washington Redskins’, the team entirely OWNED by Native Americans.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@ETpro I thought you were from Massachusetts?!?!

YARNLADY's avatar

Racist Native Americans see it as disrepectful, but I don’t think the mainstream person does. I don’t.
I do have misgivings about the word squaw, as in Squaw Valley, since it was used by Europeans to mean whore.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I still say that the Redskins should use a potato as their mascot. Redskin potatoes taste wonderful, offend nobody, and make great potato salad. We could call the team the Spuds instead of the Skins.

I’m maybe 70% serious about this. My team could keep its historic name, sans racism, while no longer hurting anyone.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie I believe they will. For instance, if you used the word “octoroon” the few people who knew what it even meant would either grasp its reference to a history now behind us, or if you were using it in a context that made it clear you believed it still has significance today, they would reckon you to be a nutcase. The various N words are already widely used in black communities and entertainment, and they are now transitioning into all areas of American youth via their use in entertainment. I avoid them because I don’t know the rules of the road, but I can see the sting of those words lessening. They will get to the same place that octoroon or the even more obscure quintroon is today. They’ll be fine so long as they aren’t in the context of an obviously racist rant.

@SadieMartinPaul I have lived in Massachusetts for years now, and all around the US and world before landing here. But I was born in what’s now the incorporated city of Chesapeake, VA but was a little hamlet called South Norfolk back in the 1940s. Our family home was, in fact, more than a mile out in Norfolk County south of the little collection of stores and a theater that made up the “citified” part of South Norfolk. :-)

JLeslie's avatar

@ETpro I think there is a difference between octoroon and nigger. Octoroon in a way is similar to using biracial, black, white, Asian, even English, German, Russian, pick a country or race. Nigger is like using Kike, and I think black people are nuts for keeping the N word alive in common every day speech. My husband has no problem using Spic, and I stop him. He is Mexican as you might remember. Although, I do find it funny when he gets together with an Irish friend and they call themseves the Mick and the Spic.

Maybe you are right. Maybe when racism doesn’t exist the words lose their negativity. Do you think most people are racist against Natve Americans? I don’t. I’m not Native American though, so I coud be wrong. I may not be aware. I have to white friends who grew up in NM and they were the nes discriminated against. They were a very small minority among the Native Americans in their school and community.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie Look octoroon up in WIkipedia. It was used to assign someone to an inferior racial group and limit their rights. It was absolutely pejorative. See what I mean. You didn’t even know that.

I think most Americans have both grandiose and negative opinions about native Americans. Crazy Horse is a folk hero. The school dropouts that die at 45 of alcohol-induced liver disease are not.

JLeslie's avatar

I know what octoroon means. And, quadroon for that matter. And, mulatto for that matter. Pretty much any word to put a person in as part black was negative, because being black was negative during that time.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie Well you are certainly better informed on obsolete racial epithets than most of today’s Americans. Know what a quintroon is without looking it up? The point is that back when those terms were in common usage, they weren’t just negatives, they meant that the person so labeled had severe limitations. They could not own property, vote, learn to read, bear arms and much more. They could be sold as property and they and their descendants then owned in perpetuity. Laying such a label on someone and making it stick had a very real impact. Now even the meanings of such words are largely forgotten, and if yea overheard someone using one of those labels in reference to someone like Beyoncé you’d figure they were either deranged or a rampant racist.

JLeslie's avatar

@ETpro I would have to agree that using the word today would still imply the person is racist, because the few people who would know the meaning or use it would be people who who likely are racist. Just like the mayor one town up from me saying we should go back to only letting landowners vote. Only a white southerner would think to say such a thing. I don’t mean all southerners are racist, I really believe the majority of Americans are not racist, but I can tell you someone in NYC would not even have that thought occur to them, because probably half the city rents where they live.

Having any black blood was the same as being black back in the day, so of course they were discriminated against, sometimes by both blacks and whites. I seem to remember back when I was in high school learning that an 1/8 black meant you were considered black by the government. I have a feeling it might be true since if I remember correctly being 1/8 Native American still gets you free tuition and some other privileges.

I do think quadroon was also used to simply describe a person’s mix. We still say things like I am a quarter Russian, or half German, an eighth Jewish, etc. For me quadroon just is not as negative as the N word, but I did not live in the time of the word being used, so I might be wrong.

What just came to my mind is Cher’s song Halfbreed, which I loved as a child. I don’t think anyone could say or sing that word without getting a huge amount of flack. I didn’t even realize it was derogatory when I was little, I liked the song, I liked Cher, and it would never occur to me that there was something wrong with being half Native American. My mom always called me Pocahontas when I wore braids. I think I grew up in such a diverse community that when I was very young it never occured to me that it mattered where each of your parents were from or their race. But, it “mattered” enough that we didn’t ignore it, we basically embraced it. It wasn’t a taboo topic.

ibstubro's avatar

I think it highly likely, from my understanding of history, that terms like quadroon might have been used within racial minorities as a distinction, and a way of having a minority of their own to look down upon. i.e. ’the paper bag test’. In the pecking order, a white could look down upon anyone of perceived mixed race, but a quintroon could feel superior to a quadroon.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie I’m having a hard time reading past only racists knowing what these words mean, cause I know what they mean and I am not a racist. I also know what letting only landowners vote means, and I’m not a racist. I was born and raised in the unreconstructed South, and again, I’m not a racist. But ignoring those generalizations, see below.

@ibstubro The labels were mostly used to sell people at higher prices. An octoroon fetched a substantially higher price than a quadroon. A quintroon was worht more than even an octoroon.

jonsblond's avatar

Does it really matter what I think? I’m a white girl with ancestors that came from Ireland and England, but I do have a friend who is Native American and I know she’d have a problem with this name.

My sons went to a high school that had an athletic team that was previously known as the Chinks. They are now the Dragons. You can’t make this stuff up

JLeslie's avatar

@ETpro I didn’t word it well. I know what the words mean too, so I am not saying only racists know the words, I am saying who has it slip out of their mouth in present day probably is around people who use it and likely are racist, unless they are historians or lay people talking about history. But, not necessarily. Remember I am the one debating that those terms don’t have to be negative, but can be explanatory. Same as I have defended, and I myself talk about statistics that appear racist to some people. Most people seem to not want to hear sociological, demographic, or psychographic stats and observations of people grouped by race. More and more I think maybe it is better not to discuss those things and just hope over time there will be no need to analyze it and no distinct differences between groups to even bother to study it.

However, the landowner comment can’t be anything but racist in my opinion. I knew what it meant because I learned the history of voting in school. It’s the only reason I know, I am sure my husband would have no idea at all what it means or implies. He would easily be perplexed and say something like, “why would you have to own land to vote?” It would be absurd to him and he would not think to relate it to race; he would have no idea it is a racist remark.

ETpro's avatar

@JLeslie No disagreement there.

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