Those who defend the name of Washington's NFL team have a number of go-to arguments, and one of them is "why didn't anyone complain about the name until now?"
Journalist Dan Steinberg has done some digging, and found that, actually, people have been complaining, very publicly, about it since at least 1972. At the Washington Post's DC Sports Bog, Steinberg presents excerpts from eight articles published in 1971-72 that challenge the name, as well as an editorial cartoon from the same era. The whole post is an interesting read for anyone who prefers truth and accuracy to message-board bluster. "I have no idea how [this] would or should affect any of the arguments on either side," Steinberg writes. "But I wanted to put this out there, because I prefer arguments be historically accurate when possible."
Here are some highlights:
From “Redskins/Rednecks”, by Tom Quinn, Washington Daily News, November 1971:
"Except in one case that has repeated itself as often as history itself, no one picks on an ethnic minority for his mascot. And that one exception is the American Indian."
From “Do We Defame Native Americans?” by Paul Kaplan, Washington Star, 1972:
“'Here’s the way to judge – no other living ethnic group is used as a symbol,' says [LaDonna] Harris. 'There’s no Washington Dagos or New York Kikes.'”
From “Williams’ Answer: What’s in a Name?” by Russ White, Washington Evening Star, January 1972:
"Particularly annoying to 730,000 American Indians is the word 'redskin.' To them, the word is a racist slur, no more acceptable than the word 'nigger' is to a black man, and no more acceptable than the term 'white trash' is among the poor in the South."
From “Indians Open War on Redskins,” by Shelby Coffee III, Washington Post, March 1972:
"Among the group requesting that 'the derogatory racial epithet 'Redskins'' be banished from the Washington sports scene were LaDonna Harris, wife of Sen. Fred Harris (D-Okla.) and president of the Americans for Indian Opportunity and Leon Cook, president of the National Congress of American Indians, which claims a membership of 350,000 Indians."
From “Redskins Keep Names, Will Change Lyrics,” by George Solomon, Washington Post, July 1972:
"Last March, [Redskins President Edward Bennett] Williams met with Indian representatives in his office to hear their charges that the nickname Redskins was insulting, as were the baton-twirling Redskinettes and other accompanying Indian depictions. 'They had some good points to make against the lyrics of our fight song,' Williams said. 'The swamp ‘ems, scalp ‘ems and heap ‘ems is a mocking of dialect. We won’t use those lyrics anymore.'"