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Redskins Nickname: Still Hot-Button

So the whole thing with the federal appeals court and the Redskins trademark and the debate over how long was too unreasonable for unhappy Native Americans to have waited to challenge the trademark....essentially irrelevant. It's all about popular opinion, anyhow, and whether the Redskins name will ever be judged too offensive to be popular. As of now, clearly that hasn't happened.

Still, every time the issue gets all up in the news, a few more people seem to come down in the "ahhh, just get rid of it already" camp. Some of the latest voices include a lawyer from the victorious law firm (reportedly), and the lead NFL writer for the most clicked-upon sports site in the country.

From the Quinn Emanuel first-year associate, in a reply-all, according to Above the Law:

i feel compelled to the point i'm willing to write (and i'm from iowa so imposition is a slow, agonizing death) with a request that we might take a moment (water fountain break, going to nelly and claire's shop downstairs, getting printouts) to think about how many people (native americans, americans, non-native americans, non-american natives) are bummed today because a mascot they find offensive remains on the second column of the sports page and on a kid's hat and on espn's score ticker (and, to a lesser extent, on cnn headline sport's score ticker).

From Michael Silver, in a post that was massively promoted by Yahoo! sports today:

In clinging to the most racially offensive moniker held by a major U.S. professional sports team since the Emancipation Proclamation - yes, I know, since forever - the franchise continues to offend some Native Americans and assault the sensibilities of a citizenry that should be long past such insensitive and shallow depictions.

From the Daily Press's Dave Fairbank, writing from the heart of Redskins country:

"Redskins" should have been pitched into the dumpster years ago, and Washington's NFL team renamed the Dragons or the Monuments or the Preening Bureaucrats or whatever. Any professional-sports franchise in the 21st century that maintains a racially or ethnically insensitive identity is lazy and arrogant. There are simply too many imaginative and yes, inoffensive, options.

From the L.A. Times's Fabulous Forum, in an entry authored by Washingtonian Mike James (no, not that one):

For decades, I have not been able to understand how the team has held on to a nickname that offends so many people and why the club has so staunchly defended it....There is some debate about the origin of the term "redskin," and some scholars point out that it was not originally a pejorative. That's fine, but what is not debatable is that the term became derisive and is clearly offensive to many now.

From friend and comrade Dave McKenna at City Paper, returning to a theme:

(Whenever these stories pop up I seek out the best rock song ever written about the offensiveness of the Redskins name: "If You Own the Washington Redskins, You're a [Bad Word]," by the great Atom and His Package. The message predates Dan Snyder.)

It is a pretty great song, actually.

By Dan Steinberg  |  May 19, 2009; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Half of me thinks the name is offensive. The other half thinks people just LOVE to be offended by anything these days.

Posted by: jacktrickard | May 19, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Anyone notice how none of the people that ever write these articles aren't actually Native American?

Shouldn't the Buccaneers and Raiders change their names in order to be sensitive to those who have been captured by Somali pirates?

Posted by: Andymr | May 19, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Meant to say - *none of the people writing these articles are Native American

Posted by: Andymr | May 19, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

"Anyone notice how none of the people that ever write these articles aren't actually Native American?"

Native Americans may not have written those articles, but Native Americans have been at the forefront of the protests and have been the ones filing the legal suits. People may have lots of reasons for wanting to hold onto the name, but the idea that Native Americans may be ok with it, doesn't seem to be one of them.

Personally, I've been a fan of the team since I was a kid in the 80s and, no matter the name or the owner, it will always represent something positive about this city in my mind. This is just an entirely different city when the Skins are doing well. We're just happier people, and the reverse is true, too.

That said, I consider myself a huge fan.I try to make a conscious effort not to use the actual name. My Dad and I've taped and kept dozens of games on VHS over the years, but I won't buy and wear team apparel. I refer to them as 'DC' or the 'Skins'. Maybe that's splitting hairs, but when people say it's racist, I agree with them.

Posted by: manifested | May 19, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Ok, but if you look at the opinion polls and research done, it shows that the majority of Native Americans are fine with the name. There are vocal opponents to the name "Redskin", but those seem to be in the minority, as shown by that link I posted earlier, and other data you can find. I want to know if Native Americans are actually that offended by this name, or is thus just perpetuated by the media and the vocal minority.

Posted by: Andymr | May 19, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I'd be perfectly OK with them changing the name and logos if people are offended. I'd also hope they'd be OK with me never buying another piece of merchandise or ever saying (or thinking) the new name.

Posted by: lupin_iv | May 19, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

I think that it would be one thing if we used some sort of chant or image that brought a negative connotation to the name but the fact that most people refer the the team as the 'Skins and that there is no negative use by the team and its fans of the name then it should be perfectly ok.

Posted by: MondoTE11 | May 19, 2009 6:16 PM | Report abuse

One of the reasons that Redskins is SUCH a great name is that if so offends left wing, politically correct weenies like Steinberg. Stop your whining.

Posted by: poguesmahone | May 19, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm not someone who is 100% for changing the name, though I do think it is offensive. I think it's worth debating, and I don't have a clear answer or opinion one way or another.

But PLEASE can we stop once and for all the moronic argument that "Redskins" is tantamount to any other name refering to people such as Packers, Steelers, Buccanneers or Fighting Irish?

In the first three cases, the category being referred is a career choice, not an ethnicity. They refer to the occupation of a large segment of the working class in those particular cities, and therefore are invoke pride and ownership by the fan base. The second, "Fighting Irish" was a name taken on by the mostly Irish team in the early 1900s, also as a source of pride.

That's very different from Redskins, which is a frankly racist term (putting it on another level from say, Chiefs or Indians) that uses a group of human beings as a mascot. Native Americans were constructed and viewed by whites as wild savages, which made them good, mascots in less enlighten ages. The use of Native American mascots, unlike the examples given above, dehumanizes Native Americans, rather than humanizing the team using pride-inducing local human references. It is akin to using savage animals such as Lions or Bears as mascots.

Posted by: elpando | May 19, 2009 6:38 PM | Report abuse

-- last line is unclear. I'm not against using animals as mascots, obviously. I'm against using human beings as mascots in a way that reduces them to the savagry of animals.

Posted by: elpando | May 19, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Political Correctness will be the end of us all. I can't tell my co-worker I like their pants, or I could get sued for sexual harassment. An aide to the mayor of DC gets fired for properly using the word "niggardly," meaning cheap--even though there is no racial connotation to the word whatsoever. And we now refer to the chair or chairperson of a company instead of the chairman, because some people claim to be offended by it.

And so it should come as no surprise that the PC Police are feigning outrage at an otherwise innocuous team name like Redskin (no word yet on whether the tasty vegetable "redskin potatoes" has been deemed offensive).

The saddest part of this non-issue is that the overwhelming vast majority of Native Americans are NOT, I repeat NOT, offended by the Washington Redskins team name. 90% of Native Americans, according to an Annenberg Public Policy Center survey, responded that the Redskins team name does not bother them. According to a Sports Illustrated study, 75% of Native Americans responded that the team name does not offend them. And yet the issue has been hijacked by the PC Lobby and their pals in the bedwetting press--and statistics like the ones cited above are completely ignored. Radical Native American interest groups use this non-issue as a fundraising tool, commonly brought up in direct mail letters, it's one of the only remaining issues these radicals have. Just pitiful.

Thank God we have an owner in Dan Snyder who has publicly stated the name will never change as long as he is owner.

This is one battle the PC bed-wetters will not win.

Posted by: Barno1 | May 19, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

We have found the ONE issue that Steinberg gets on his "high horse" about. (Is that phrase offensive to horses, or just people who ride horses, or both?) Everything else on this blog is all like, "look at me, Dan Steinberg, I write stories about mustaches, and urinal cakes with funny pictures, how wonderfully nonsensical I find this world of sports to be!" But every now and then Steinz gives us his dose of political-moral outrage about the Redskins name and mascot.

Steinz, you are not very good at the politically-correct-moral-outrage-this-I-believe-post, so you might consider calling off your dyed-red Mohawk-shaved dogs. (Is the Mohawk name offensive for a non-Native American to use? Is the Mohawk hairstyle offensive to Native Americans when non-Native Americans wear it? Please Steinz, show us the way out of this conundrum with all the wisdom accumulated during your careful documentation of Pittsburg Penguin fan chest hair.)

Frankly I would be proud of any team bearing the name "whitey." And, say, a mascot of teenage Anthony Michael Hall (circa Breakfast Club) on the side of the helmet.


Posted by: hithere1 | May 19, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

"I'm against using human beings as mascots in a way that reduces them to the savagry of animals."

So when does the NCAA launch their crusade against Notre Dame?

Though on a better point, since we've declared a "tyranny of the minority" where nobody can be offended, ever, I declare an end to this discussion of "offensive nicknames" and demand those who insist upon having these "discussions" either "evolve" or be run out of polite society because I'm offended by these discussions. Why am I offended by these discussions? Because I've decided to be offended and that is all that matters so the rest of the world must bow to my demands until I am no longer offended.

Posted by: CapsNut | May 20, 2009 5:58 AM | Report abuse

The insanity is that reasonable people know full well that it is offensive, yet insist that it is okay because some people who could be offended aren't.

Like there's a permission slip for blatant racism.

Compassion fail.

Posted by: StetSportsBlog | May 20, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Dave Mckenna at the city paper......
Has Mckenna EVER written anything that doesn't trash the Redskins?

City Paper seems to have it in for the Skins even more than the Post.

Posted by: nwoking | May 20, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

CapsNut, I expect much better from you. Did you not read the one of the above posts? The Fighting Irish was a moniker created in 1900 because the people on the team WERE IRISH! Not English. Not Mexican. IRISH. It would be offensive if they called themselves the Fighting Mexicans, but they called themselves the Irish because they WERE IRISH! I'm sure when the Redskins were created they weren't a bunch of Native Americans playing football. Please get off the Notre Dame defense. It's pretty weak.

Posted by: Randy_Hawkins | May 20, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

"Like there's a permission slip for blatant racism." -

Well, I feel so foolish now for questioning the merit of complaints about the word "Redskin." Case closed!....?

Except, wait, is this "Redskin" word blatantly racist, as you say? If it is so now, has it always been? Was it racist in the 1940s, too? The 1950s? If so, boy, I guess everyone in the DC area was just stupid back then, given that this debate was not taking place then, at least in courtrooms (this case we are discussing was brought forward in 1992). Is it racist because it refers to a skin color? Is the word "Redskin" racist in every context?

Some here imply that words are immutable things whose meaning can be easily judged. I disagree. I don't think that words are unchanging with the passage of time, and I think that the same word can connote different meanings in different contexts. For example, the "N-word" is used freely within certain African American communities, yet it's use is verboten within other ethnic/racial communities. I understand the difference between this example and the word "Redskin," but I use this case to illustrate a simple point about how word meanings can change over time and mean different things to different communities.

Who adjudicates word meaning? In this case, who decides what is racist and what is not? If it is simple rule by popular opinion, the Washington professional football team name probably won't change for awhile.

What if instead we leave the issue up to "experts?" Do we want a judge, or lawyer, or politician, or blogger, deciding themselves what is offensive and then imposing a judgment about it on others? Should a "word meaning commission" (with commissions seemingly all the rage these days in DC) convene to decide appropriate words for us to use publicly?

Some countries do that now, you know. I'll let you figure out which ones.

Posted by: hithere1 | May 20, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

The only name change I would ever be ok with is if they just shortened it to the Washington Skins and switched the logo to the R or the Arrow.

Posted by: bigcountry22 | May 20, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

lets not deny that the word Redskins is racist, and that the teams founder, George Preston Marshall was a notorious racist. Here is my problem with this recent spate of articles:
People in this country did not seem to care when we massacred Indians and stole their land. In fact, all these columnists seem to be living on this stolen land with few regrets. It is self-righteous to feign sympathy for Indians after their culture has long since been destroyed and their people killed. There are a myriad of problems confronting today's native american communities: continued government and corporate exploitation, sub-standard quality of life, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. I will NOT give any credence to anti-"redskins" whiners who have done nothing to advance the cause of native communities. Native Americans have much bigger problems than the picture on my t-shirt, but no one seems to give a damn about them.

Posted by: SkinsInSichuan | May 20, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Keep name. Change logo to a potato.

Posted by: mls74 | May 20, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

90% of Native Americans are not offended by the team name Redskins. The other 10% feign outrage. This is not my opinion, this is fact. (well the first part is at least fact, the 2nd part is my opinion).

Posted by: Barno1 | May 20, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

lets not deny that the word Redskins is racist, and that the teams founder, George Preston Marshall was a notorious racist. Here is my problem with this recent spate of articles:
People in this country did not seem to care when we massacred Indians and stole their land. In fact, all these columnists seem to be living on this stolen land with few regrets. It is self-righteous to feign sympathy for Indians after their culture has long since been destroyed and their people killed. There are a myriad of problems confronting today's native american communities: continued government and corporate exploitation, sub-standard quality of life, drug and alcohol abuse, etc."

Agreed that there are larger issues, but I don't think that the two are mutually exclusive

Posted by: manifested | May 20, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

You know what would be just great, if a study was conducted to see whether the general public is more "offended" about the name Redskins than the 10% of Native Americans who claim to be bothered by it. It would be pretty hilarious if we found out that was the case.

I don't know about you, but I'm with the 90% of Native Americans that believe Redskins is NOT an offensive name.

Posted by: Barno1 | May 20, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Driving through a Blackfoot reservation in Montana, I noted to a friend that there was an inordinate amount of Redskins gear being worn. It seems to me that this is a non-issue to most people living on the 'Res'.

Yeah, the name is probably offensive. But after 75+ years I feel like it's been grandfathered in. After all, "redskin" is a term you'd hear in B&W Lone Ranger re-runs or something your senile great-grandpa would say. It's become increasingly arcane to the everyday lexicon of slurs.

And frankly, after seeing the Bullets get wussified into lame-o Wizards with their teal and creamcicle orange unis... The thought of rebranding the Skins into a generic rubbish name like "Washington Lighting" with a Fuchsia and ecru color scheme makes me want to jab crocheting needles in my eyes.

I live in NYC, and drive down to FedEx about 4 times a year to meet with old friends and watch a game. The redskins have become my ritual and are a part of my culture the same way a peace pipe smoking ceremony is a part of some NA cultures.

Posted by: agentbonddc | May 20, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Some terms that one could be considered offensive at one time become pretty much accepted language. "Paddy wagon" for instance. That is a slur, yet no one complains and no one would hesitate to use the term. Same thing with the Washington Redskins. You have to be a real p.c. geek to be offended by that.

Posted by: poguesmahone | May 20, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

you are right that they are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but you don't comment on the last sentence of my 10:09 post, where I take umbrage with those who expound so much sweat and thought into bashing the Washingotn Redskins name but seem to have not a care for the ACTUAL native americans in this country, who could use a few good columnists taking up their cause.

Posted by: SkinsInSichuan | May 20, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

this link sums up the polls and gives links to them. pretty straightforward stuff here folks . . .
maybe a lot of NAs hate the Cowboys as much as we do. or, like I said before, dont really care and have much bigger things to worry about . . .

Posted by: SkinsInSichuan | May 20, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

The only thing offensive about the Redskins is Dan Snyder.

Posted by: rodeorob | May 20, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

The Quinn Emanuel first year is the spoiled son of a very rich investment banker who's failed the California bar exam twice, didn't need his salary anyway, and simply decided to chuck it and go out in a blaze of glory.

And his incoherent rant didn't help any Native American causes, either.

It's sad that well-connected losers like this one can keep their jobs at major law firms unless they melt down in such a public spectacle that their firms have to fire them, while talented and hardworking working class kids with $200K in student loans get laid off by the hundreds by the very same firms.

Posted by: Itzajob | May 20, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

people just have to complain about something. Redskins are a name of a team . It doesn't mean a put down or a racial slur. When football fans think of Redskins, they think of an NFL team, for OVER 75 years.. not a native american. It could be redskin potatoes for all we care. No one really notices the face on the helmet. I'm sick of all the PC we have to do in this country. Get over it!!It's a name of a Football team!

Posted by: redskinQT | May 20, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse


You live in sichuan? I live in Beijing. What up!

You never actually addressed my argument that words change meaning over time and may mean different things in different communities. Instead, you just say "lets not deny that the word Redskins is racist, and that the teams founder, George Preston Marshall was a notorious racist."

Um, why don't you reread my original post?

Then, why don't you answer some of my questions, like who gets to decide which words are racist? Apparently you think that you are one of the people who gets to decide this. But I don't agree with you that the word Redskin is racist, full stop. So who is right? Whoever yells the loudest? Whoever types the most? Bloggers? Lawyers? Redskins fans living in Sichuan?

The government?

Is it time for politicians in the U.S. to form a "word meaning commission?"

Posted by: hithere1 | May 20, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Okay, so despite my love for the professional football team in question, there are few reasons that I can find to rationally justify defending the name. I do love the logo, that which depicts Native Americans in quite the noble fashion (which would be A TERRIBLE MISTAKE to change).

I wonder why, however, that the Washington Redskins are the only team that come under occasional fire for their identity. Sure Cleveland's baseball team is simply called the "Indians", but how demoralizing is there goofy, and cartoonish logo which derisively depicts Native Americans?

Oh, and better yet....Why haven't the L.A. Clippers come under fire, b/c last time I checked, a "Clipper" is a ship that carried African slaves to the American Continents...yeah, a "Clipper" is a SLAVE SHIP!!!

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Posted by: Quakerman | May 21, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

I always find it amusing when white people try to imagine why a slur would be offensive.

Hey you honky colonialists, get back on your boat and go back to Europe. Oh that's right, the Europeans didn't want your Puritanical bigoted behinds either. Why don't you get back on your boat and move to the Antarctic, where there really are no people and you can call that "The New World", cause this one wasn't so new.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | May 21, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

What amuses me is that people don't actually know what is going on. The action by the 6 plaintiffs has nothing to do with the Redskins changing their name. What the suit has to deal with is the the United States Government providing the Redskins a right to enforce their name against others that might use it.

The Redskins can maintain their name even if the plaintiffs were successful. What would happen is that the Redskins wouldn't be able to enforce, via the court system, their trademark against someone that wanted to make up Redskins T-shirts, hats, etc.

Now, there might be a commercial reasons that would force a change of the name if the Redskins lost their trademark rights but the court isn't forcing the team to change their name. It could be the Washington "Insert your ethnic slur du jour" and still be okay.

Posted by: SteelHop | May 21, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

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