Cleveland Park listserv bans ‘Redskins’

August 16, 2013

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

There are many ways to demonstrate how the Redskins name story has continued to flirt with absurdity.

Here’s one way: Jeanne Theismann — ex-wife of Joe and a reporter for the Connection Newspapers — asked me to weigh in on the topic during my appearance at the Rotary Club of Alexandria on Tuesday.

(I told her the same thing I tell readers: I have no real opinion, and attempt to see both sides of the issue, but I do think it remains a relevant if occasionally absurd local news story, although I recognize that many of my readers disagree.)

Here’s another way: Publications on both sides of the issue have managed to make this about politics.

And here’s a third way: the Cleveland Park listserv this week announced that the word “Redskins” would no longer be used in its dialog.

“We have decided to treat the “skins” of the word Redskins like any other vulgarism and will simply blank it out with asterisks, as we would do for other four-letter terms for body parts or effluvia,” wrote Peggy Robin, a co-founder of what DCist described as perhaps the largest listserv of its kind in the country. “Red****s. That makes it clear what was intended but still signifies that the word is not acceptable in polite conversation. We also want to do whatever is within our power (and true, that’s not much!) to pressure Dan Snyder to give it up. The more publications that adopt this policy, the faster the inevitable change will come.”

So, she continued, “if you want to post a message to sell tickets for an NFL football game on the listserv, your message will be posted as ‘Red****s Tickets For Sale.”

The initial responses — as forwarded on to me by a subscriber — were largely positive.

“I couldn’t agree more,” one subscriber wrote. “Redskins is offensive. I cringe every time I see the name used.”

“Why make any reference at all?” asked another “DC’s NFL team eliminates all association with the current name.”

“The Washington football team will be cursed until they change the name,” wrote a third. “Too bad we will waste all of RGB [sic] III’s talent, fighting said curse.”

But that wasn’t the only publication to weigh in recently! To consolidate the outrage in one place, here’s a sample.

Slate’s David Plotz, announcing the name was out: “Changing how you talk changes how you think. The adoption of the term “African-American” — replacing “Negro” and “colored” — in the aftermath of the civil rights movement brought a welcome symmetry with Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans, groups defined by geographic origin rather than by race or color. Replacing “same-sex marriage” with “marriage equality” helped make gay marriage a universal cause rather than a special pleading. If Slate can do a small part to change the way people talk about the team, that will be enough.”

The New Republic’s Franklin Foer, joining Plotz: “This is hardly a great moral issue of our time, but it’s not a terribly complicated one. It’s an offensive name. Period.”

Mother Jones’s Ian Gordon, joining the others: “From here on out, we will refer to the team online and in print as ‘Washington’ or ‘Washington’s pro football team’ or, if we get sassy, ‘the Washington [Redacted].’ ”

Columbia Missourian executive editor Tom Warhover, feeling swayed: “Each time I read of another publication drawing this particular line, I think the Missourian should, too.”

National Review’s Dennis Prager, striking back: “Teaching people to take offense is one of the Left’s black arts. Outside of sex and drugs, the Left is pretty much joyless and it kills joy constantly. The war on the “Redskins” name is just the latest example.”

The American Spectator’s Aaron Goldstein, striking back too: “The Left lusts for power to change anything it can anywhere it can regardless of whether anything better actually comes of that change. So at this moment, The Left wants to make the name Redskins unacceptable in polite society. The sad thing is that the people who are pushing for this probably couldn’t tell the difference between a quarterback and a cornerback.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, weighing in: The well-known leftish host referred to the team as the R-Words during an entire segment.

Newsbusters’s Randy Hall, responding to Maddow: “Why should Maddow stop with that professional baseball team? Shouldn’t the same standard be applied to the Atlanta Braves? And what would happen if animal-rights activists join the fray? Would that be the end of such NFL team names as the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos? Thankfully, such political correctness run amok is being nipped in the bud by Dan Snyder.”

And so on and so forth. Meanwhile, back in June, “The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights “dismissed a complaint filed against 35 Michigan school districts that alleged that the use of such [Native American sports] imagery is discriminatory,” according to the Detroit Free Press:

The federal department, in its letter dismissing the complaint, said the information the state department provided “is not sufficient for OCR to infer that racial discrimination has occurred or is occurring,” said Catherine Criswell, director of the OCR office. Criswell said the department had not provided to OCR any specific examples of race-based incidents or identified “any students or individuals who have suffered specific harm because of the alleged discrimination at any of the named school districts.”

So this remains a fun topic for everyone.

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · August 16, 2013

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