Time to Sack the Redskin Name


Five Reasons Washington Needs a New Nickname
I came to Washington,D.C. the same year as Ronald Reagan and Joe Gibbs. My first fall in Washington began with the Redskins starting out 1-6 under their new coach.   The next season Gibbs led the Redskins to the first of three Super Bowls victories and the city went wild.  I caught the fever and became a fan.

I remember the excitement percolating throughout the city in the days before the matchup with the dreaded Cowboys for the NFC Championship in 1983.  I watched that game in a packed Bayou in Georgetown and remember hugging and high-fiving total strangers after Dexter Manley’s monster sack of Cowboy’s quarterback Danny White sealed the win.

I say this because, although I am now in Southern California, I know what this team means to Washington.  They love their team, but not its nickname.

Here are 5 reasons why its time to change the name:

(1) It is a racist and derogatory term

While there are other teams with Indian names – Braves, Chiefs etc – no other team in professional sport has a name that refers to the skin color of a person.

Here is the definition of the term:

red·skin  (rdskn)

n. Offensive Slang

Used as a disparaging term for a Native American.

(2) It is meant to be a racist term.

The team was originally known as the Boston Braves, until George Marshall bought the team.  As Alex Pareene writes in Salon:

When George Marshall bought the team in 1932, they were called the Boston Braves. He changed the name — to a slur, because he was a racist — and moved them to Washington. He made “Dixie” one of the team’s fight songs and refused to hire black players well into the 1960s. The NFL integrated in 1946 but Marshall’s team held out until the federal government actually forced them to field black players in 1963. The all-white Washington teams of the 1950s and 1960s were among the worst in the league, but segregation was more important to Marshall than winning football games.

Marshall is alos famously quoted as saying he would hire “Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing white.”

(3) You play in the nation’s capital.

I always found it curious that the Cowboys were called “America’s team” when it was the Redskins who (up until their move to a suburban stadium) played within view of the Capitol.  In this city, symbolism matters and the Redskin is not a symbol that represents American values.

(4) Race matters in Washington

The current owner, who was born in Maryland, should be more sensitive to the question of race since it has defined this region for some time.  When I first came to Washington, you could still see the scars from the 1968 riots.  There are only 3 NFL teams that have a larger percentage of African-Americans in their greater metro area and one of them is the Baltimore Ravens who are next door.

(5) Money

Washington LOVES its football team and would buy up any merchandise for its rebranded team as long as it didn’t say Cowboys or Giants.  Consider the former New Jersey Nets – their relocation to Brooklyn has moved them up to the top 10 in merchandising.  The same is true for the Los Angeles Clippers as their branding as an actual basketball team has done the same.  Washington has one of the league’s top stars, so there is no better time to rebrand than now when sales are likely to be at their peak.

So fight on sons of Washington, just not as the Redskins.


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