The Redskins Should Change Their Name

A+protester+outside+a+Washington+Redskins+football+game

A protester outside a Washington Redskins football game

Apolline Gaspers, Sports Journalist

Traditions are not worth keeping if they’re wrong. If the world was dictated by traditions, then women would have no rights, the guillotine would still be used to execute people and African Americans would still be slaves working on plantations. The world is constantly changing and norms should change with it. This concept should be applied to the Redskins, a Washington football team that is in dire need of a name change. 

The throwback name is stained with the genocide of Native Americans and offensive derogatory slur. According to the Oxford dictionary, the term redskin is “dated, offensive” showing how disrespectful and racist the term is. “Redskin” is the equivalent of calling an African American the n-word. How is this appropriate for a team that is representing the United State’s capital? 

 

Traditionalists believe that it is unfair to hold history to modern standards. However, something that is morally wrong, is wrong no matter what time period you are in. For instance, with Columbus Day many people had been celebrating Columbus because since we were kids we were ingrained with the saying, “Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492”. But as more information about Columbus surfaced, it became clear that Columbus caused violence and slavery, forced conversion of native peoples to Christianity, and introduced a host of new diseases. Even though Columbus committed mass genocide against the native people, some still want to celebrate Columbus Day because they claim that you can’t judge the past based on today’s standards. Many people, however, have rejected the national holiday and now in New Jersey, we do not get a day off at all. Change is possible and must be taken if something is wrong. 

 

Lalo Alcaraz illustrates Native American misappropriation by Redskins fans

Traditionalists also only want what they grew up with because they are uncomfortable with change. This type of narrow perspective prevents actions that could end racism and promote equality in multiple areas. The term “Redskins” is inappropriate, just because it is a tradition does not mean that change should not occur. In the 2016 annual NFL poll, 77% of all white fans believe the name should not be changed, 38% of African-American and 33% of Latino fans agree. This creates a double standard because a derogatory mascot name wouldn’t be tolerated with other ethnicities and races. In essence, Americans simply have either not been paying attention or just consider sports teams more important than morality. I hate to rain on fans’ parades, but sports are not important enough to offend someone. Sports team names do not make your players better or worse. A team nickname is just a word.

In addition, Native Americans are people, not mascots. How would you feel if someone was shouting a name that personally offended you like it was an intimidating word? The word “Redskins” paints indigenous peoples like savages or animals. Jacqueline Pata from the National Congress of American Indians commented on this saying that, “the NFL [has no place] to continue marketing, promoting, and profiting off of a dictionary-defined racial slur-one that tells people outside of our community to view us as mascots.”

 

Pullquote Photo

the NFL [has no place] to continue marketing, promoting, and profiting off of a dictionary-defined racial slur-one that tells people outside of our community to view us as mascots”

— Jacqueline Pata

 

If that was not enough for Dan Snyder, the Redskins manager, to change the name, Native Americans are unhappy about the name too. A poll that was published in the Washington Post in 2019 claimed that “the majority of Native Americans still aren’t offended by the name of Washington Redskins.” However, the study was conducted by a survey by phone with 500 “self-identified” Native Americans. There was also an emphasis on the Native Americans who approve of the Washington Redskins, leading to questionable credibility of the findings. “My tribe doesn’t identify as ‘redskins’ – this is a derogatory term coined by colonialists often historically used interchangeably with ‘savages’. We don’t need polls by newspapers to understand that racial slurs are offensive,” says Angelina Newsom, a writer for the Independent. Polls like these stifle the voices of many Indengious activists who are working towards progress and change. They also can convince many non-Native Americans that this term is not offensive and alright to use. An individual’s right to not be called a particular word is more important than your right to use that word. The name must be changed because we must treat all people with respect and dignity.

My tribe doesn’t identify as ‘redskins’ – this is a derogatory term coined by colonialists often historically used interchangeably with ‘savages’. We don’t need polls by newspapers to understand that racial slurs are offensive”

— Angelina Newsom

Not only is it a question of morals but it is also in the Universal Declaration of Rights. Changing the name might make stadium location negotiations easier and eliminate an ongoing public relations problem.

 

This name must be changed. Traditions must be discarded if they are wrong. Sports is no place for racism, as is the entire world. How are we supposed to end stereotypes and prejudice, if even our sports teams have derogatory names? The only thing we can do is to file complaints and boycott until Synder swallows his pride and does what is right. Indigenous people are counting on you. Equality is counting on you.