Bill James on the Redskins name


(Carolyn Kaster/AP)

(Seriously, if you were running a frequently updated blog about D.C. sports, and the local baseball team was struggling, and the local soccer team was a disaster, and it was the slowest time of the sports calendar, and one of the most famous baseball writers in the country was answering multiple questions about the local football team, you really would ignore it? I don’t believe you. I’m telling you, you would do the same thing I’m doing. Don’t tell me you’d instead break down Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing mechanics. I just don’t believe you. Don’t judge.)

This Q&A happened in Bill James’s daily mailbag this week:

Flyingfish: Hey, Bill, in response to a question about whether the Washington DC football team’s name is offensive, the Redskins, you said “Why not pick something worthwhile to be offended by?” I am Jewish, and I assume you wouldn’t use the word “kike” because it offends me and other Jews. There are similar words that offend black people, Hispanics, and other groups that I assume you also wouldn’t use. If “redskin” offends all or nearly all Native Americans, then why isn’t the name of Washington’s football team worth being offended by?

James: But I don’t have ANY reason to believe that “redskins” offends all or nearly all Native Americans, and in fact I DON’T believe it. I suspect that it offends a group of 12 people who are in the business of finding things to be offended by. I can see that “Redskins” pushes the envelope a little more than “Indians” or “Braves” or “Blackhawks” or “Seminoles,” but…are the Penobscot people offended that Penobscot is called Penobscot? What’s the difference?

Tangotiger:Chicago Blackhawks also feature Native Americans very prominently. But, they never get any grief for it. They make it a point, with players, and with people on tours, that in the dressing room, with the huge image of the face in the middle of the room, that you CANNOT walk across it. You have to go around. Plus they have the best uniform in sports. It’s really a question of respect and honor.

James: Well, my high school team was the Mayetta Indians. Of course, since Mayetta [is] on an Indian reservation, at least half of every team really WAS Indians — none of whom ever objected to being called “Indians” or to the team being called “Indians.” Which is probably why I have difficulty relating to the objection.

(Via @needham_chris)

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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