Discussing the necessity of changing the team name of the Washington Redskins gets tiresome — whether it’s comments posted to the Washington Post website or Facebook exchanges or Twitter bickering, the same arguments for keeping the name crop up again and again. And again. You know these ideas are coming, it’s only a matter of time before each is trotted out. If anyone is more sick of hearing these lame objections than we are, it’s got to be the sportswriters who are barraged with them every time they post a story.
Two of these, Sean Gentille (@seangentille) and Robert Wheel (@bobbybigwheel) put out a call for a Redskins Name Defender Bingo card, and Aaron Montgomery (@ProbablyMonty) responded. Here’s what he came up with:
These arguments aren’t just tiresome, they’re also completely defeatable. In fact, a few of them are self-defeating, and others are just nonsense that needs no response. For a bit of Friday fun, we’ve run through all 24 (skipping “SMH” — shake my head — as it is not an argument). This should be very useful — if everyone would just read this article, we’d never, ever have to debate any of this again.
1. What about the new foundation?
2. It’s Snyder’s team, he can do what he wants.
True. He can have a racist slur for a team name. He may lose the trademark (if recent actions by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicate a trend, he will), which would allow anyone to profit off the name however they can, but he can keep the name. Newspapers and websites can refuse to print it, but he can keep the name. TV networks might someday follow suit, but he can keep the name. The team can get used to being picketed in every town they travel to, but he can keep the name. And we can all continue to post thousands of comments on every news story on the topic, but he can keep the name. Someday, though, he may realize that if he fights this fight to the bitter end, all public sentiment be damned, he will be securing a very questionable legacy for himself. Those who defend institutional racism well beyond its expiration date become symbols of wrongness — does Dan Snyder want to be remembered as the George Wallace or P.W. Botha of the NFL? (Ok, those aren’t totally fair comparisons, but they’re not totally unfair either. They will be made.)
3. There are other racist pro team names/logos.
Yes, but none are quite as deliciously racist as the Redskins, are they? Sure, the Sambo-esque Cleveland Indians mascot is appalling, but the name Indians isn’t a slur. The names Braves, Warriors, and Chiefs aren’t slurs. They may not be particularly respectful to a race of people who gave up attacking wagon trains well before the first pro football game was played — but they’re not slurs.
4. Liberal agenda.
Liberal agenda to… what? What nefarious liberal goal is achieved by renaming this team? Health care, gun control, climate change, same sex marriage — please explain to us what piece of the liberal-agenda quilt is affected by renaming the Washington Redskins. And don’t you dare say immigration reform, Pilgrim.
5. Something about staying true to team’s history.
You sure you want to use the “H” word? You sure you want to claim history is important when it comes to a sports team? Because American Indians also have a history, and it’s been pretty rough since 1492. Go ahead, though, make the case that history matters when you’re talking about a sports team but it’s not so important when you’re talking about a race of people.
6. BORING / yawn.
Bored? Ok then, we’ll put you down as “don’t care about this issue one way or the other.” Thank you for your comment.
7. <homophobic slur>.
Thank you for your comment.
8. I have lots of Native American friends.
It’s ok, we have lots of white friends. But that doesn’t mean we can tell them, individually or as a group, what to think.
9. It’s not a slur, it’s just a physical description.
We’ll zoom in on the last five words here — so you’re saying it’s ok to label a group of people with a “physical description” even if they object to it? If so we’d better notify the slopes, zipperheads, darkies, slant-eyes, ragheads, towelheads, and dot-heads that they’ll need to get used to their new (old) names. Who knows, maybe they too will luck out and have a sports team named after them.
10. There are Native Americans who are fine with it.
You’re absolutely right. Some Native Americans are “fine with it.” Maybe a lot of Native Americans are fine with it. Just because there is a diversity of opinion in Indian country, that doesn’t mean those on one side of the issue should be discounted.
11. I don’t find it offensive.
Noted. Thank you for your comment.
12. Pray, how does the Indian-killer Jackson fulfill your idea of a racially harmonious role model?
13. Are there even races anymore? Aren’t we all just Americans?
Pretty sure there are still races. Thank you for your comment.
14. Words only have the power we give them.
Yes, and we give slurs a lot of power. That’s why they’re slurs.
15. The name has majority support in polls.
Not sure which poll you’re referring to, but that’s beside the point. People often support things that are wrong. 8 in 10 Americans believe in angels; does that mean angels exist? Does that mean the other 20 percent of Americans should be forced to accept angels as real?
16. It’s actually a term of honor/pride.
If it’s a term of honor/pride, then why are we having this discussion? Gotcha.
17. Here come the PC police.
Yes, the PC police, those jack-booted thugs who’d like nothing better than for you to stop insulting people at sporting events and cocktail parties. Oooh they are truly a terror squad aren’t they.
Oh, you’re a #tcot, a Top Conservative on Twitter? Well don’t look now but Obamanazi just legalized gay abortions for food stamp recipients, and he’s sending the bill to Hobby Lobby. You’d better get going — you have tweets to write.
19. Slippery slope
You know how it is — start treating one group of people with decency, pretty soon you’ll have to do the same for everyone. And then where would we be?
Actually, the above response is giving the “slippery slope” people too much credit. They don’t see the issue as one of treating people with decency. They feel “everything’s offensive to someone” and then describe a bunch of silly controversies that don’t exist. “What’s next — rename the Giants because it offends tall people? Rename the Buccaneers because it offends pirates? Rename the Saints because it offends Catholics? Rename the Cleveland Browns because it isn’t fair to the other colors?” No, nobody is asking for any of those things. Just please rename the one that is a racial slur.
20. <defiant HTTR>
HTTR (Hail to the Redskins)? You’re going to use your own blind fandom as an argument here?
HTTR? HTYM (Hail to yo momma)!
21. There are bigger problems in the world.
So true. Let’s agree to change the name and then all join the Peace Corps together.
22. But Oklahoma is actually a racist name too.
It is true that “Oklahoma” comes from the Choctaw words okla and huma, meaning “red people.” But you’re looking at this wrong. This isn’t about hunting around Wikipedia to find examples of proper nouns with racial etymologies. It is about listening to a group of people who are looking you in the eye and telling you this one name is flat-out racist and should not exist. We don’t know of any American Indians taking issue with “Oklahoma”. How will you know if “Oklahoma” is upsetting to Indians? When the Indians tell you. Like they’re doing right now with “Redskins.”
23. Changing the name won’t solve all racism everywhere.
Correct, although this is hardly a reason not to do it. Thank you for your comment.
24. But rap music and the n-word.
We’re glad you brought that up. Isn’t it interesting that you say “the n-word”? You’re trying to draw an analogy between a word you cannot say and a word that is all over t-shirts, bumper stickers, and the end zone at FedEx field. If these two words have anything in common (and they do), then any reasonable society would discard “redskins” immediately.
Rap music brings up another point — yes, rappers, African American rappers, use the n-word. They can do that because it’s their word; they earned the right to use it, or not use it, however they see fit through generations of slavery, oppresion, and marginalization.
But the more we think of those rappers, those African American rappers who use the n-word, we think maybe there’s a way out of this after all. Is there any circumstance under which the Washington team could keep the “Redskins” name? Sure. If the owner, management, coach and players were American Indians, and they wanted to take the field as the Washington Redskins (as more than a few teams in Indian country do) that would be their right.
They would be the N.W.A. of the NFL, and opposing teams would be nervous about the name, not sure whether it’s ok to say, and call them the W.R.S. just to be safe — how cool would that be?