Our society has veered strongly toward utmost political correctness these days. It seems as if every kid is required to get a trophy in every sport, and anything said about any group of people is deemed offensive somehow. There are people in the media whose sole job is to wait for a comment that could be skewed as offensive and then pounce all over it.
In a society such as this, how is it possible that in 2014, Washington, D.C.’s football team is still named the Redskins. It’s hard to fathom a name out there that could even be more offensive. Over the last 25 years, numerous high schools and colleges with similar nicknames have changed to something less offensive. For example, the St. John University Redmen are now the Red Storm. The Miami University Redskins are now the Red Hawks.
In these cases, without question, there were people who were loyal to the nickname and wanted to stick to tradition, and didn’t find the nicknames offensive. That is all well and good, but the vast majority of those people are not part of the Native American group that are offended with the name. The heads of these various schools took time to access whether or not the scrutiny was worth it, and decided to move forward with the name change. Why the owner of the Washington football team is being so stubborn on the issue is truly hard to grasp.
Stubbornly Holding on to the Redskins
The controversy behind the name of the Washington Redskins is nothing new. There is an article all the way back in 1971 stating people’s desire to think about changing the name of the team. In 1999, Daniel Snyder purchased the Redskins and their stadium for $800M, which at the time was the largest transaction in sports history. Snyder said back then that he didn’t see the name as an issue, and reiterated that point to USA Today last year, when he said:
We’ll never change the name,” he said. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.
A rather profound statement from someone who is already feeling the heat from numerous advocacy groups calling for a name change. Within the last month, 50 Senators wrote letters to the Commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, asking him to force Snyder to change the name.
The #RedskinsPride Disaster
The Redskins responded with a social media gaffe that puts it on par with US Airways’ heinous tweet. The team was obviously miffed by the letter drafted by the Congressmen, so on May 29th, they decided to take to Twitter to ask their fans to speak up.
Rather than fans voicing their support for the team, Twitter exploded with people using the #RedskinsPride hashtag as an opportunity to call attention to the antiquated team name. Eye opening tweets included this one, depicting historical violence against Native Americans.
The Redskins realized pretty quickly that they weren’t receiving the warm reception that they expected when they sent out their tweet. Hopefully, this mistake serves as a wake up call to the true feelings across the country regarding the team’s name.
Redskins Drama Continues as Native Americans Have Their Say
That twitter blunder wasn’t the end of the road for this debate, as it intensified in a big way this week. On Tuesday during the NBA Finals on ESPN, a California Native American tribe paid for a two minute commercial to run in seven major markets across the country, which they titled “Proud to Be.” To say it was powerful would be an understatement.
The spot was so well done, and forces you to grasp what this controversy means to Native Americans. It should be noted that the commercial was put together by one tribe, and should not be looked at as the greater opinion of all Native Americans, but the point still rings true: if the “nickname” of your team is deemed offensive by a group of people in this country, you should probably think long and hard as to if you still want to fight for that name.
How Dan Snyder Can Fix the Redskins Problem
Dan Snyder is a smart, self made man, and frankly should know better. Fifteen years ago, he stated that he was going to keep the name of the team, and he is still holding to that today, but is that still a good strategy?
The disdain of the name “Redskins” reflects not just on Snyder, but every employee and player on the team. It has to be cumbersome to constantly be asked questions as to your thoughts about the name when you are part of the organization, and frankly, it has damaged the reputation of the team.
At this point, Snyder really has no other choice than to reassess and change the name. That said, because he has dragged his feet for so long, its not likely that he will receive much adulation or compassion when the name is finally changed, and his reputation may have passed the point of no return.