Feature

The ‘Redskins’: Is the name a racist slur?

The “festering controversy” over the Washington NFL team’s name has erupted again.

Should a 21st-century pro-sports franchise still be calling its team the “Redskins”? said Judy Battista in The New York Times. The “festering controversy” over the Washington NFL team’s name has erupted again, after speakers at a forum at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., recently expressed disgust at the inherent racism of the name “Redskins,” sparking new calls for the team to make a change. In a bizarre response, the team posted a series of articles on its website about the 70 U.S. high schools that call their sports teams Redskins, emphasizing the pride that staff and players take in the name. Clearly, the team intends to resist the building pressure to surrender the name it has used for 80 years, said Mike Jones in WashingtonPost.com. “We’re proud of our history,” said Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, and it’s “ludicrous to think that in any way we’re trying to upset anybody.” 

If you thought football was full of dumb people, there’s your proof, said Sally Jenkins in The Washington Post.The fact that a few high schools still cling to “Redskins” doesn’t change the fact that the word is a racial slur “in the same class as Dagos, Hymies, and Krauts.” Perhaps that’s why the name appealed to the team’s original owner, George Preston Marshall, a “virulent racist and segregationist” who once sneered that he’d only hire black players “when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.” Current billionaire owner Dan Snyder probably doesn’t care if he continues to insult Native Americans, since they’re only 1.4 percent of the population, and are therefore “too unimportant to be insulted.” Absurdly, some fans and football traditionalists even argue that “Redskins” pays tribute to Native Americans, said Christopher Zara in IBTimes.com. C’mon. It’s “a racist term with a violent and bloody past,” coined by white settlers who would literally hunt Native Americans for sport. 

Even so, the team’s defenders insist that no one really cares, that this is just “political correctness run wild,” said Robert McCartney in The Washington Post. Not true. All major Native American organizations have called on sports teams to get rid of Indian names and mascots. Today, there are only 70 high school teams left “in the ‘red slur’ category,” down from 500 in 1970. That should tell the team something. “Sometimes being politically correct is just plain correct.”

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