John Kelly's Washington

Columnist John Kelly: Redskins' Play Is as Offensive as Name

By John Kelly
Thursday, October 1, 2009

The tall man with the chiseled features was standing by the side of the road, crying. He looked familiar. I pulled my car onto the shoulder and put on my hazards.

"I know you," I said as I got out of my car. "You're the Indian -- excuse me, Native American -- who cries when people despoil the environment by throwing bags of trash at your feet as if they just didn't care."

He didn't say anything. He simply stood there, big fat tears running down his cheeks.

I looked around, expecting to see mounds of garbage piled up a the Indian's ankles. But his ankles were undespoiled, and the whole stretch of shoulder was as clean as a putting green. A sign explained it: "Adopt a Highway: Obsessive-Compulsives Anonymous."

No wonder everything was so tidy. But if it wasn't trash that was making him weep, what was it?

"Excuse me," I said. "If it isn't trash that's making you weep, what is it?"

He wiped a hankerchief across his brow and turned to me. "I am ashamed for my people," he said.

"Really? Why?"

"We take our name from the National Football League franchise in Washington. For years we were proud to be named after them. Now, we are ashamed, certain we must have done something awful to have cursed the Redskins so."

"No," I said. "You've got it backwards. You're not named after the team. The team is named after you. The Redskins -- the word refers to the color of your skin -- are named in honor of you."

He turned his face towards mine, a look of disgust replacing the look of sorrow.

"In honor of us?" he said, incredulous. "That's how the team honors us? By starting 1-2 and handing the Lions their first victory in 20 games?"

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