How many Washington Redskins fans want the name to change?
A Washington Post poll conducted in June of 2013 found that the overwhelming majority of local fans – four in five – supported keeping the moniker. But opposition among Redskins Nation does exist, as illustrated by my profile of Ian Washburn, a rabid third-generation season ticket holder who has disavowed the name.
Along with Washburn, here are three more lifelong Redskins fans who now say the time for change has come.
“PR dumpster fire”
Ben Becker, then in kindergarten, still remembers his elation when the Redskins won their first Super Bowl in 1983. He also remembers his deluge of tears when the team lost the Super Bowl a year later. Now 38, he once dismissed those who objected to the name. But as the controversy grew, he changed his mind — and now struggles to understand why more of his fellow fans haven’t done the same. “I don’t think if there was an expansion franchise in Washington there is any chance they would name it the ‘Redskins,’” he said. “That’s a very simple litmus test for me.”
Team owner Daniel Snyder argues that the name honors Native Americans and has vowed never to change it.
The team’s handling of the controversy — which Becker described as a “PR dumpster fire — has only added to his frustration.
“It’s nauseating,” he said.
He hasn’t bought team gear in a decade, and he won’t dress his sports-loving 3-year-old son in anything that prominently displays the name or logo.
“I feel very uncomfortable putting my little boy, who doesn’t have a say in the matter, in a shirt with a big Indian face on it,” he said.
“Nothing okay about that”
Snyder’s stubbornness was among the reasons Washington-native Jenn Rubenstein, 33, cancelled her season tickets following the January 2013 playoff loss.
A Robert Griffin III t-shirt, Chris Cooley jersey and maroon hoodie she wore that day still remain in a pile by her windowsill where she took them off after the loss.
Rubenstein, who long ago insisted “Redskins” referred to face paint and not skin color, has since boycotted the team’s gear.
In a section of the stadium next to where Rubenstein used to sit, she recalled, a group of men would routinely dress in fake Indian regalia and “war whoop” when the team scored touchdowns. She was repulsed.
“There’s nothing that’s okay about that,” said Rubenstein, a speech-language pathologist. “Where do you draw the line about what’s racist and what’s not?”
Loves the team, hates the name
Last Saturday, Brent Sower searched the top shelf of his closet. His wife was about to run in a half-marathon, and he needed something warm to cover his head.
Sower, 37, found a pair of Redskins stocking caps. One is bright yellow, the other black with burgundy and gold stripes. Both are adorned with the Indian head logo.Sower briefly considered wearing one, but decided against it.
He has loved the team since going to games at RFK Stadium with his grandfather, but that allegiance has been tested in recent years. He refuses to let any of his three young children don the team’s gear.
“It really leaves you in a conflicted space when you love a team but hate their name,” said Sower, who works in marketing. Sower returned to his closet on that recent morning and pulled out a Washington Nationals cap. “My ears were cold,” he said, “but I felt better.”