If you’ve long suspected that football is not a measure of intellect, the proof is currently posted for all to see on the Washington Redskins Web site. A series of prominently displayed pseudo-articles defend the club’s use of a racial slur as a mascot on the grounds that lots of high schools are nicknamed “Redskins” too — so it must be okay. Which we can only take to mean that pretty soon owner Daniel Snyder will be skipping class to build a potato gun.
It would be nice if the NFL franchise in the nation’s capital were an example for all the land. But apparently Snyder takes his example from 10th graders. A couple of days ago, the club launched a campaign to defuse the pressure Snyder is under to change the team name by declaring that “70 different high schools in 25 states are known as the Redskins,” and therefore it’s surely an honorable word. What’s more, “Redskins.com found that there are almost as many schools using the name Redskins as Cowboys.” Oooh! And after school, for fun we’ll shoot BB guns at road signs!
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On Tuesday, a new entry appeared, in which a high school athletic director from Oklahoma proclaimed that, “No one has ever been dishonored at our school with that Redskins nickname.” Though he himself was admittedly not American Indian, he said he had consulted one.
He also confessed that he wasn’t sure his students “know the whole history behind the nickname ‘Redskins.’ ”
No, they probably don’t know. Given that the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only 12 percent of high school seniors were proficient in American history. And only 2 percent were able to identify the social problem addressed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
This is just a guess, unlike the Redskins.com scientific method of surveying high schools on MaxPreps. But I’m willing to hazard that most 10th graders don’t realize a team calling itself Redskins might as well rename itself the Darkies, Guidos, or Slant Eyes. I’m pretty sure they are unaware that the term Redskins dates to the settler era when hunters boasted about shooting down “damned government pets” and peddled Indian scalps as if they were animal pelts along with deerskins and bearskins.
It’s Snyder’s favorite ploy to summon “history” and “heritage” to defend his use of a term that belongs in the same class as Dagos, Hymies and Krauts. By history, Snyder seems to mean the apocryphal notion that team owner George Preston Marshall meant to “honor” Lone Star Dietz with the name of the team. A real reading of history shows that, actually, Marshall was a virulent racist and segregationist who liked to play Slave and Master. According to Thomas G. Smith’s book “Showdown,” when Marshall proposed to his wife, he hired black performers to dress up as chattel and sing “Carry Me Back to old Virginny.” He once said, “We’ll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.” He also once said, in answer to the charge that he was anti-Semitic, “I love Jews, especially when they’re customers.” It’s far more probable that when Marshall invested in the team known back then as the Boston Braves, he simply renamed it to differentiate it from the baseball team.