The debate over whether to change the name of the Washington Redskins has seen a lot of passionate back-and-forth in recent months, but team owner Dan Snyder's comments to USA Today published on Thursday, May 9, may be the most inflammatory yet.
"We will never change the name of the team," Snyder said. "It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."
Snyder said that "the Redskins fans understand the great tradition" of the name. Jim Rome, a radio and TV sports personality, shot back on his blog: "Oh I know Redskins fans do, but what about the Native Americans that you’re slurring. Go ask them what it’s all about and what it means. And unless you are Native American, stop telling me the nickname isn’t offensive. Not to you, it’s not."
Writing for WashingtonPost.com, Barbara Reynolds called Snyder's remark "reminiscent of an ugly past" — specifically, the stubbornness of Alabama's segregationist governor George Wallace. "For a moment I felt myself hurled into that infamous day in 1963," she wrote, "when Wallace stood on the doorsteps at the University of Alabama and thunderously vowed: 'Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.'"
Snyder's "NEVER" comment appeared in a larger article about Amanda Blackhorse, the activist who is currently pursuing a trademark case against the team. Blackhorse suggested that Snyder really does know that the term is considered a slur. "I'd ask him, 'Would you dare call me a redskin, right here, to my face?' " she told USA Today. "And I suspect that, no, he would not do that."
To the south, in Richmond, Virginia, a writer for the Times-Dispatch sought out prominent local Natives and solicited their opinions on the team's name. Paul Woody — who declares himself an advocate of the changing the name — spoke with leaders from the Patawomeck, Pamunkey, and Rappahannock tribes. All three said they had no problem with the name. Anne Richardson, chief of the Rappahannock Tribe, told Woody: "We’re more worried about our kids being educated, our people housed, elder care and the survival of our culture. We’ve been in that survival mode for 400 years. We’re not worried about how some ball team is named."
Mike Florio, writing for NBCSports.com's "Pro Football Talk," questions the randomness of Woody's survey, and suspects an ulterior motive given that the Redskins will hold their preseason practices in Richmond in 2013 for the first time. Florio's diagnosis: