There has been a lot of talk recently about whether the Washington Redskins should change their name. Several Washington Post writers, in addition to many American Indians, say they should.
I wrote about the team name in 2005; that’s probably before some of you reading today were born. I said then that the Redskins should change their name, and I haven’t changed my mind. The name Redskins is insulting to American Indians.
I know lots of people disagree. As far as I can see, they have two main reasons for wanting to keep the name.
First, they claim the name Redskins is not meant to hurt the American Indians’ feelings. Some even say the name is meant to honor them.
That is hard to believe. The term redskins refers only to a person’s skin color. American Indians are much more than their skin color. It is also important to realize that Indians, or Native Americans, do not call each other redskins. The Smithsonian museum is called the National Museum of the American Indian, not the National Museum of the Redskins.
Kids understand even better than some adults that there are certain words you are not supposed to use. There is a nasty name for almost every group of people. It is not nice to use those names. Redskin is one of those names.
The second reason people want to keep the Redskins name is that that’s what the team has been called for a long time. I am sure you know people — parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts — who grew up with the name. They think that if the team name changes, it won’t be the same.
But look at Baltimore. From 1953 to 1983, the Baltimore football team was called the Colts. The fans in Baltimore were as devoted to their Colts as Washington fans are to their team. The Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984, and Baltimore did not have an NFL team.
In 1996, Baltimore got another football team, with new uniforms, new colors and a new name: the Ravens. It seems to me the Raven fans love their Ravens just as much as the Colts fans loved the Colts. The name didn’t make much difference.
In 1997, the Washington Bullets changed their name to the Wizards because owner Abe Pollin didn’t want fans to think of guns and violence when they were cheering for his team. Washington hoop fans still root for the Wizards to make the playoffs.
Because kids have not been Redskins fans for as long as adults, the name does not mean as much to them. Kids understand that the fun of being a football fan comes from watching games with your friends and family. Doesn’t that feeling deserve a better name — a kinder name — than Redskins?
I still think so.