A rise in activism over this issue has begun in 2014, after decades of effort from Native American associations to raise awareness.
“The name ‘Washington Redskins’ is 80 years old,” said Lanny J. Davis recently, an attorney for the Redskins, “It’s our history, our legacy, and our tradition.” This seems to be the only argument raised in defense of the team name. Tradition. Should a tradition carry on in the modern world, however, when it widely offends an already embattled people?
President Obama commented on the issue recently, and raised a similar question. “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” adding that the name seems to offend a large group of individuals.
Are we so attached to our teams that earn money to play a game, that we should ignore the cries of those that have real scars attached to names and words like “Redskin?” There are many other team names in America that hearken to Native American culture such as the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Chicago Blackhawks. Are those names really of a similar ilk though? Would another color skin name, such as Blackskins be okay nowadays? I think we all know the answer to that question.
We live in a time where past prejudices and injustices are brought to light and expunged on nearly a monthly basis. If the name “Redskin” was not associated with a football team; ask yourself, “Would I really be comfortable hearing someone called that on the street?
Numerous publications have begun to omit the name from any stories involving the team, instead calling the team simply “Washington.” The San Francisco Chronicle added their paper to the growing list earlier in October, joining the likes of popular publications Slate, Mother Jones, and The Kansas City Star.
Ultimately, it comes down to the root of the name. It was a stereotype, plain and simple. And as Suzan Shown Harjo, a plaintiff in the case filed against the team said, “There’s no such thing as a good stereotype, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how good people feel about it. It still has negative ramifications for our people. These are relics of the past. They should be consigned to museums and history books and people can feel good about them there, but they should not be allowed in polite society.”