The Washington football team’s name has been removed from the vocabularies of numerous newspapers, broadcasters and fans.
Now there’s a way to remove it from the Internet.
Three friends in California developed a tool that looks for the word “Redskins” on any Web page and replaces it with an alternate name that has not been called a racial slur.
If you’re reading this article on Google Chrome with the “Redskins Web Skin” extension installed, you might have seen the word “Citizens,” “Americans,” “Thanksgiving Originators” or another of about 15 choices in the previous sentence rather than the name of the Washington football team.
Eric Schlakman, one of the three people who launched the Chrome extension on Wednesday and have plans to roll out similar tools for Firefox and Safari in the next few days, said that he and his two co-creators have never been Redskins fans.
Indeed, Schlakman, who roots for the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers, signed an email to a reporter “FailToTheRedskins.”
The San Francisco trio was inspired to enter the debate over the Washington team’s name, Schlakman said, when they were discussing their plans for Thanksgiving.
“We were wondering if the Redskins were playing on Thanksgiving,” Schlakman said. “As those words came out of our mouths, we thought, that’s an absurd statement. ‘The Redskins are playing on Thanksgiving’ sounds like something you say in 1614, not 2014.”
In a matter of days, Schlakman and his friends Brett Lareau and Patricia Yee, who are all in their early 30s, had built the tool and acquired the domain redskins.solutions. They turned it into a smoothly designed site, complete with quotes from NFL players and former players opposed to the name.
“I’m not sure it just pertains to the NFL or sports fans at this point,” Schlakman said. “If it’s something that’s bothering people, that should be the end of it. There’s no reason in this day and age that somebody should be subjected to being called a redskin, and certainly not on the side of an NFL helmet.”
Users who download the Chrome extension initially see one alternate name, chosen at random. They can click one of the extension’s two buttons to try out a different alternate name, like “Washington Founders,” “Washington Indigenous Peoples” and “Washington Humans.”
The other button takes users to a Change.org petition asking Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, to change the name.
“This gives people an opportunity to change the name Redskins in their browser. It’s also a way for people to raise awareness to change the name on the field,” Schlakman said. “We’re hoping that this is just another way to rally people across the Internet, since we’re unable to protest his doorstep.”
In the meantime, he hopes that sanitizing Internet browsers brings some relief to some aggrieved fans.
“It’s bad enough that people are saying it in broadcasts, or that we’re forced to see it on the field,” Schlakman said. “This is a way of removing it from arguably an even more popular screen.”