Hello friends. I’ve again limited myself to just one item about the Redskins name, despite a veritable hailstorm of possibilities. For this day, they all will live here.
LETTERMAN AND O’REILLY
Prompted by Bob Costas, David Letterman and Bill O’Reilly had a go at the issue Wednesday night.
Letterman: I wanted to ask you about the Washington Redskins. Now people are saying that it’s time for the team to change the name, that it’s not fair, it’s an insult to Native Americans. But we have the Braves, we have the Chiefs….
O’Reilly: The Indians, Cleveland Indians
Letterman: Yes, other Native American iconography. What about the Washington Redskins is different? Bob Costas the other night was talking about it, and I thought he delineated the difference clearly.
O’Reilly: Well, No. 1, we live in a politically correct country now, right, so that’s what’s driving this. And there are some Native Americans that are upset. I’d like to see the team change its name to the Washington Chaos. First-and-10 for the Chaos coming up. So we remind everybody how chaotic these people are. To me, I understand the legacy of the Redskins. I don’t think it was designed to offend anybody. Do you know how the Redskins came to be called Redskins?
Letterman: Well, I know your version of it.
O’Reilly: Yes, which is the true version.
Letterman: Yes, because when they went to war with the white man, they would paint their faces red to go into battle. But the other part of that is the white Americans and the Europeans obliterated an enormous race of people, right out of their own country, by the millions. Gone, good-bye, here, you can have a little bitty piece of land, and good luck with your casino. And that’s what happened. So maybe they did put the red paint on, and I think all of us would agree to a major degree they have not been treated fairly since.
O’Reilly: Sure, but I don’t know if you should take it out on the Washington Redskins football team.
Letterman: But if they’re angry about it?…
O’Reilly: What about the Fighting Irish? The Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I’m a pacifist. I mean, come on, Fighting Irish?
Letterman: I know that you like to get drunk and fight, I know that.
O’Reilly: I’d like to see a poll done among Native Americans, to see if they really are offended. And if they are, then they can change it to the Washington Chaos, which is a great name.
Letterman: Well, whether they’re offended or not, I believe they have the right to say yes, change the name. I mean, good Lord, isn’t that the least we can do at this point?
O’Reilly: They have the right to say it, but they can’t force anybody to do it.
Letterman: No, it’s a private enterprise.
Then they moved on.
ESPN 980’s Kevin Sheehan, who hosts the Redskins official pre-game and next-day shows, was also prompted into a segment by Costas this week. He talked with co-host Thom Loverro.
“Peter King, alright, if our team nickname offends you so much, next year when you’re making your way through 32 training camps in 30 days or whatever he does over the summer for his site, make it 31 training camps next year,” Sheehan said. “Don’t come and write about the Washington Football Club. The Washington Football Club is not the name of the team. The name of the team is the Washington Redskins. And if you can’t say it and if you’re insulted by it and offended by it and you had this grand epiphany over the summer about your feelings about writing the name, don’t come….
“Don’t visit the team with the name you’re offended by, and certainly don’t visit it during training camp in a city that was the capital of trying to keep slavery alive 150 years ago….For me, this whole issue is delicate. It’s not one that I’m totally sure of. From an emotional standpoint, I don’t want the name changed. I don’t want it changed, because I’ve got 40-plus years invested in it, and it’s part of my fan identity for the team that I love more than any other.
“And yet, at the same time, I’m not the type of person in my heart that would ever want to offend someone with a racial slur. EVER. It’s not the way I was raised, it’s not in my heart, it’s not in your heart. So there’s this quandary, if you will, because on the one hand, I don’t want the name changed. I don’t want it changed because in my lifetime I’ve never known the word to mean anything but good. It’s never had a negative connotation for me. But I believe that I’m open-minded enough to deal with a change, if – and this is a big if – if it becomes obvious that the word for sure, FOR SURE, is a racial slur that offends most Native Americans.
“And I’m not convinced. I’m not convinced for a number of reasons. And I don’t know how Bob Costas and Peter King and President Obama for that matter can be so damned convinced when there’s 60 high schools across the country that still have the name, and several of those schools are majority Native American student populations….How can people like Costas and King and Christine Brennan, how can they be so convinced when you get answers [in support of the name] from Native Americans in schools where the name is a source of pride? How are they so convinced when they hear that? I mean, find one school in this country that is majority African-American that has the N word as their nickname. You’re not going to find one, because that’s clearly and obviously a racial slur and highly offensive. There’s no gray area with that word, no debate.
“The R word, Redskin, the offensiveness level is debatable. Why are people so convinced? For those that grandstand on this issue and always compare the R word to the N word, stop it. Be fair. That’s exaggeration, alright. That’s a joke, really, as a comparison. And if you’re not joking, where the hell were you five years ago, or 10 years ago, or 20 years ago? I mean, if this word is so offensive and is comparable to the N word, why now? Listen, there’s progress, and you learn things, but if it’s the N word, really? C’mon, five years ago you should have felt this way.”
A part-Choctaw part-Cherokee parent at Neshaminy High in Pennsylvania’s Bucks County is taking her longtime complaints about the school’s Redskins mascot to the to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, according to WPVI.
The station indicated that not many locals were sympathetic to her effort.
“I just think it’s the nature of the area. We all went to school here. This is Neshaminy Redskins, you can’t change that,” 19-year-old Tyler Roach said, via the station.
“How can you expect the whole community to change their name, their ways, for you, one little family? If you’re that offended, move on,” Langhorne resident Gary Morin said.
THE LOUDOUN COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
The Post reported that Prince George’s County Exec Rushern Baker said the Redskins should consider a name change, but a leader in Loudoun County strongly disagreed. Via the Washington Business Journal:
Loudoun Board Chairman Scott York forcefully defended the Redskins in a brief diatribe that started with a jab at NBC’s Bob Costas. Costas kept the Redskins firestorm going when he said during Sunday night’s halftime show that “Redskins” is an “insult” and a “slur.”
“It’s just a shame there are individuals who for some reason don’t understand the history and tradition,” York said during a Loudoun board meeting.
He went on to suggest that critics of the team name “just want to stick their nose in and change things” to somehow benefit themselves.
Via Ashburn Patch, York also made a reference to Costas’s “pie hole,” which sounds like fun.
Ahtone, a Native American journalist, wrote about the topic for the Fronteras Desk. Excerpt:
I’ve had a lot of racist slurs thrown at me in my lifetime. Admittedly, one of the least vulgar was the term “redskin,” but it still hurt. Probably because it was accompanied by a headlock, a few solid punches to the face from a boy twice my size, and a ring of kids about my age (11 or 12 at the time) who seemed to think the term fit….
The controversy over mascots has been around my whole life. In the past, I have found myself annoyed at the number of Native journalists who took detours to chime in on the issue when there were so many important stories in Indian Country that needed to be covered. Yet considering how very few journalists cover Native affairs, and that a majority audience remain uneducated about Native issues, it’s important to remember that sports mascots are often America’s only engagement with Indian people. As such, the goofy, toothy grin of the Cleveland Indians mascot, Chief Wahoo, says a great deal about how American society views its original inhabitants, and doesn’t do much to improve race relations….
While owners and supporters of the Washington team continue to stand by the racist term, others don’t have to. Many reporters and outlets have adopted the stance to not use it in their stories or publications any more. As journalists, we are often worried about being seen as too politically correct, and adverse to injecting what appears to be opinion in our work, and rightfully so. However, no self-respecting journalism outlet would repeatedly publish the N-word or any other epithets directed at any other race in the country. It’s with this thought in mind that I advocate for media outlets to discontinue their use of the R-word.
CHRISTINE M. FLOWERS
Here’s a column that was passed along by the Redskins Twitter account, that ran in the Philly Daily News, Newsday and perhaps elsewhere. It’s by Christine M. Flowers:
When no offense was intended, we should be very careful about legitimizing the pain of the so-called victim. I had the same reaction when the sandwich shop “Chink’s” was compelled to change a decades-old name because it offended the Asian population.
If we start down this road of eliminating from our culture all the discrete and disturbing things that could possibly upset this person or that one, we’ll get caught up in a web of details that – instead of liberating us from bigotry – will tie us up in a confused knot. We’ll be sentenced to a state of eternal correction. Every time someone says “I’m offended,” we’ll have to look at the world through her teary eyes and figure out how to neutralize her subjective pain, at our collective expense.
Maybe saving the name of a football team isn’t that important, particularly one with such a crummy record. On the other hand, maybe our culture warriors should be pickier in choosing their battles.
This cartoon ran in the New York Daily News. Whoa there, was my initial reaction.
DICTIONARIES OVER TIME
Mother Jones, which has come out against the name, got the history of the word’s dictionary definition from Peter Sokolowski, a lexicographer and Merriam-Webster editor at large. By 1961, the New International’s third edition defined the word as “usually taken to be offensive.”
Charles Krauthammer, whom some would describe as a conservative, expanded on his Redskins thoughts in a column.
Let’s recognize that there are many people of good will for whom “Washington Redskins” contains sentimental and historical attachment — and not an ounce of intended animus. So let’s turn down the temperature. What’s at issue is not high principle but adaptation to a change in linguistic nuance. A close call, though I personally would err on the side of not using the word if others are available.
How about Skins, a contraction already applied to the Washington football team? And that carries a sports connotation, as in skins vs. shirts in pickup basketball.
Choose whatever name you like. But let’s go easy on the other side.
REV. JESSE JACKSON
The name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins must be changed.— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) October 18, 2013
It must also be clear that changing the name of the team is not an attack on the team, its fans or players. #nfl— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) October 18, 2013