The Redskins name debate has been mentioned in connection with the Confederate flag debate for at least 25 years.
“The argument that the Stars and Bars is a racist symbol holds about as much water as the claim that ‘Redskins’ is a racist name for Doug Williams’ team,” a Washington Post letter writer argued in 1988.
This linkage, of course, has intensified in recent days, as opponents of the team name have used the Confederate flag debate to argue that the Redskins name should go away. NBC Washington’s Tom Sherwood did a piece on the topic. Fox 5 held a debate, in which anchor Shawn Yancy — who is black — explained why she no longer uses the team name.
Vice’s Ty Schalter wrote a lengthy piece on the matter. So did The Nation’s Dave Zirin. It came up in a court hearing on the name’s trademark. Well-known liberal Keith Olbermann devoted a segment to the topic. Well-known conservative Todd Starnes also made the connection. And Will Leitch wrote about the matter for Sports On Earth:
Maybe you love the Confederate flag — and it’s worth noting that most of the friends of this Georgia resident have been ready for the flag to be out of their lives for years — and maybe you’re against gay marriage, but you can’t deny the direction of the wind: Even longtime advocates are realizing these are battles they can’t win. Maybe you like that and maybe you don’t, but pretending it is not the case is denying reality. Which brings us, perhaps inevitably, to the closest thing the world of sports has to the Confederate flag: The logo and nickname of the Washington Football Team.
Many will reject this comparison for obvious reasons, pointing out that a scientific poll has shown Native American support for the Redskins name, that football should not be compared with politics, and that it’s entirely unfair to link the name of a sports team with such a weighty symbol as the Confederate battle flag.
Still, it’s hard to deny that defenders of both the team name and the flag have sometimes used very similar language to state their cases. This quiz asks if you can tell the difference.