The Redskins' preseason has begun. The sports news is full of questions about their coming season:

* Will Patrick Ramsey start at quarterback?

* Will star linebacker LaVar Arrington bounce back from last year's injuries?

* Can Coach Joe Gibbs recapture his Super Bowl magic?

But I have been thinking about another, maybe more important, question: Should the Redskins change their name?

I can hear Skins fans, including lots of kids, shouting, "No way! They have always been the Washington Redskins."

Well, no, they haven't. Let's take a look at some history.

The team that is now the Washington Redskins started in 1932 when a group headed by George Preston Marshall bought a National Football League team in Boston. The team played at Braves Field, where a professional baseball team called the Boston Braves also played. The new football team also was called the Boston Braves.

A year later the football team moved to Fenway Park, home of baseball's Boston Red Sox, and changed its name to the Boston Redskins. The name made some sense for a team in Boston: The city was the site of the famous Boston Tea Party in 1773, when colonists dressed as Native Americans boarded British ships and dumped tea overboard to protest a British tax.

After a short stay in Boston, the football team moved to Washington in 1937 and became the Washington Redskins.

No matter the history, the Redskins should change their name because "redskin" is a mean nickname for Native Americans (also called Indians). Oh, I know the folks at Redskins Park say the team name is meant to honor Native Americans. But if that's true, why aren't Native Americans called "redskins" in the newspaper or on TV? And why isn't the Smithsonian's new National Museum of the American Indian called the National Museum of the Redskins?

The truth is that "redskins" points out one physical thing about Native Americans. It is never nice to make fun of people. Having a team named the Redskins is like calling a team the "Curly Hairs," the "Big Noses" or the "Freckleskins."

Think of it this way: Say you had a friend that you called a nickname you thought was cool. Let's say you called him "Beast" because he was such a great rebounder in basketball. But your friend didn't like the nickname and asked you to stop using it. If you cared about your friend, wouldn't you stop calling him "Beast"?

For years, Native Americans have asked the Washington Redskins to change the team's name because they find it disrespectful and mean. For years, the team has refused. But there is no excuse to continue to call a football team by a nickname that hurts the feelings of thousands, maybe millions, of people.

This year, the people who run the Redskins can show everyone that they have the heart of a champion: They can change the name of the team.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.

Manley A. Begay Jr. speaks at a 1999 gathering aimed at ending the use of racist images and names in sports.Do the Redskins' name and logo honor Native Americans?

Or are they disrespectful and mean?