The latest flurry of attacks on the Redskins team name has not seemed to involve new voices — many of the current critics have been critics for years. Their arguments, though, have gotten significantly more aggressive in recent weeks.
That goes double for Jim Vance. The WRC anchor has been a longtime advocate of changing the Redskins name; “do we really want to be the only team in the league with even a question about the appropriateness of our name?” he asked last February.
This month, as the critics hammered away, Vance spoke on the issue again, this time with an entire essay about his distaste for the team name. Vance, you’ll recall, is close friends with Joe Gibbs and Bobby Mitchell, among others, and once helped the franchise choose its 70th anniversary team.
“Back in the day, if you really wanted to insult a black man, attack a Jew, an Irishman, and probably start a fight, you threw out certain words,” Vance said on Friday. “You know what they are. They were, and they are, pejoratives of the first order, the worst order, specifically intended to injure. In my view, ‘Redskin’ was and is in that same category.”
“The name sucks,” Vance said to conclude his piece. “We need to get rid of it.”
The full transcript is below. In other name pieces:
* Lifelong Redskins fan Kevin Ewoldt of Hogs Haven provided four reasons fans shouldn’t be bothered by a name change. “It’s the players and organization that matter, not the mascot,” he wrote. “The fans will never leave our team.”
* Longtime Redskins fan William F. Yurasko provided some ideas for a potential name change. “I think the best case scenario is for owner Dan Snyder to figure out a strategy for changing the name and do it on terms that are most acceptable to the most amount of people,” he wrote. “Involving prominent members of the team’s past and present would be critical to help with acceptance of the change — I nominate Bobby Mitchell, Joe Gibbs and Robert Griffin III.”
* Former Skins beat writer Rick Snider weighed in with an Examiner column: “Certainly Washingtonians aren’t purposely picking a fight,” he wrote. “But if the term isn’t derogatory, then why are some American Indians offended?….It may take another generation, but all things change and the team will one day alter its name.”
* At the other end of the political spectrum, The Nation’s Dave Zirin reached the same conclusion: “The better this team gets and the closer they come to the Super Bowl, the more this name goes from a quietly uttered embarrassment to a full blown national conversation,” he wrote. “This is going to happen, and even if Dan Snyder doesn’t want it to happen, it’s going to happen.”
Anyhow, here’s the full Jim Vance transcript:
“When I was a kid growing up in Philly, we hated the Redskins. It was not because of the name; it was because they had no black players. In those days, we called them Negros. We figured, why root for somebody who obviously hated you? By that measure, we also had no love for the Phillies. But we adored the Warriors — that was the Philadelphia NBA team with Wilt and Guy Rodgers, way before they became the 76ers. Back in those days, we were huge fans of the Rams, the Bears, the Lions, the Browns, and especially the Green Pay Packers, because the Packers had Herb Adderley, and Herb Adderley was from North Philly. He was a homeboy.
“On arrival here in D.C. in 1969, I still hated the Redskins,” Vance said. “But by then, it was more the name than the team. Bobby Mitchell and Charley Taylor changed that for me, as did Sonny, and of course all-too briefly, Vince Lombardi. As the years went by, I started loving that team, though. Really, the players – Larry Brown, Pat Fischer, Doc Walker, Pete Wysocki. And as my love for the Smurfs and Over the Hill Gang and Fun Bunch grew, so did my distaste for that – in my view – vulgar name.
“My revulsion was borne of a source perhaps different than many others. You see, back in the day, when I wasn’t scanning the paper to see what Roy Campanella or Buddy Young had done, I was watching Lash LaRue, and Tim Holt, and I loved me some Randolph Scott. And it was in those Westerns and so many more – all of ‘em – that I NEVER, not once, EVER, heard of a Redskin referred to respectfully. A Redskin was always dirty – ‘dirty Redskins’ – bloody – ‘bloody Redskins.’ Savage Redskins, inhuman Redskins. Unhuman. You name it.
“Back in the day, if you really wanted to insult a black man and attack a Jew, an Irishman, and probably start a fight, you threw out certain words. You know what they are. They were and they are pejoratives of the first order, the worst order, specifically intended to injure. In my view, ‘Redskin’ was, and is, in that same category.
“A few years back, I decided to stop using the name on the air. Went at it for almost a year. George Michael bet me nobody would even notice. I had to pay up. We got not a single question or complaint. People just assumed I must have used the word. It is that much a part of the D.C. culture.
“That notwithstanding, the name sucks. We need to get rid of it. Let’s substitute Warriors. Sixty years later, I would love to, once again, adore the Warriors.”
(For the record, I was watching this with my 5-year old daughter, who says her favorite team is the Redskins. I asked what she thought about ‘Warriors.’
“That sounds like a cool name,” she said. “It sounds pretty scary for the other teams. They probably won’t even get a goal, because they’re so frightened, like little babies. Don’t you think so?”)