Sunday, February 2, 2014

America's Game and America's People

I love football.

I also love the specific teams I've cheered for over the years: my Eden Prairie High School Eagles, the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and the Minnesota Vikings.

None of these teams however, have an undeniably offensive mascot. The Washington Redskins do. While the nation's attention is still turned to football, spread the word about this important message that should have aired during the game:

This is a simple change that needs to be made now, and then we can hopefully follow up by addressing the more complex problems facing Native Americans.

I know the team has a storied 72 year history and fans will be resistant, but this is bigger than football. I love the Minnesota Vikings and would fight with everything I have to keep them in Minnesota or to keep them from changing their name. Yet, if the people of Scandinavian descent in our country or in my state saw the name as derogatory rather than celebratory, I would want it changed for their sake. I love the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and that name was originally offered as a slur against our predominantly Catholic student body, but if my fellow Irish Catholic Americans hadn't embraced it on our own terms I would want it changed. And more aptly for this comparison, if it were the Drunken Irish, I would demand it be changed.

There are team mascots based on specific Native American tribes that have received permission from those tribes to use the name, and these teams make an effort to properly respect the Native American cultures behind their monikers, but "Redskins" is inescapably a racial slur.

Also, it's not like it would be unprecedented for such change to occur for an NFL team or the city supporting a team. The Colts left Baltimore and fans were angry, but now they love the Ravens. The Oilers left Houston and fans were upset, but now they are happy to cheer for the Texans. In this scenario the franchise and fans would stay together, all that would change would be the nickname and mascot.

In fact, Washington fans would have a cool opportunity to reinvent their team and draw national attention with a great new name. They could work with the National Congress of American Indians and other groups to find a name and mascot that honors Native Americans, which would probably be the best way to address the offensiveness of the current name. Alternatively, to avoid any such controversy, they could find a name that touches on the amazing city they represent, such as the Senators or the Generals. They could even resurrect the USFL's Washington Federals.

There is also the simple solution of re-branding the teams as simply the Skins. Fans already say 'Skins as a shortened version of the team's name, so adopting that name and changing the team logo would involve the smallest amount of change while still removing the element of racism. If 'Skins seems too weird, it can still be short for something: Pigskins. It's a traditional nickname for a football, and a team name in the video game Backyard Football, that would provide fans a reason to keep calling their team the 'Skins.

Also, changing their name to the Pigskins would make what these guys are doing make a bit more sense:

1 comment:

Matthew Myers said...

Honor what the District produces in abundance. The Washington "Red Tape"