The debate is on — again — in our nation’s capital over the nickname of that city’s National Football League franchise: the Washington Redskins.
Is it an iconic name harming no one’s feelings, or is it a racial slur that ought immediately to be relegated to the scrapheap of American insults to a minority group? In our view, the latter.
The issue arose a decade or so ago, and a number of teams on several levels acted positively to change their name to an unoffensive alternative. Locally, the Saranac Lake Central Redskins became the Red Storm, as did St. John’s University in New York City.
But the NFL Redskins refused to submit, and they still do. Team owner Daniel Snyder was quoted in the Washington Post on June 26 as saying, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use all caps.”
A poll in the D.C. area had found that 61 percent of respondents like the team’s name, and two-thirds say the team should keep it. That, although 56 percent of those liking it admit it is inappropriate. Only 28 percent consider the term acceptable to use.
It confounds logic to consider a term unacceptable to use, inappropriate — even offensive — and yet prefer to retain it.
One respondent, a 52-year-old woman in construction sales, said, “I’m Irish. Should the Notre Dame Fighting Irish change their name because I don’t like it? Hell, no.”
That is an argument put forth by many. But it has no persuasive power. “Fighting Irish” offends no one. “Redskins,” in sharp contrast, is a hurtful, demeaning insult to an entire race. Would any person outside that race feel comfortable personally addressing a Native American as “Redskin?” We would certainly hope not.
It is akin to the N-word for blacks — a term created ages ago when whites exhibited no sensitivity or empathy toward the members of the race included under that hateful umbrella.