WE THINK most Washingtonians will applaud Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder for establishing a foundation to help Native Americans.
Who could oppose giving 3,000 winter coats to people who need them or athletic shoes to enable youth sports teams? Maybe the idea for the foundation came from public relations specialists called in to deal with the controversy over the team’s name (though, if so, you would think they might have thought through the unfortunate acronym resulting from the name Original Americans Foundation). And it’s true that the letter announcing the foundation, which was posted on the team’s Web site Monday night, offered no details of how much money will be given, which gave rise to some skepticism. (“We’ll see how long that goes and what issues they address and how,” said Suzan Shown Harjo, an activist who has long opposed the team’s name.) Yet good works are good works, and charity should be celebrated.
The letter described the foundation as the outcome of a “listening” tour Mr. Snyder conducted among Native American tribes. It is aimed, the letter said, at providing “meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities.”
But no matter how much Mr. Snyder’s foundation accomplishes, it cannot make his team’s name any less offensive — or negate the need to change it.
We take Mr. Snyder at his word that he doesn’t see the name as a slur. It has a storied tradition, polls show it retains many supporters, it is not intended to wound. None of that changes this fact: You would not, by any means, call an Original American a “Redskin” to his or her face. Why not? Because it is a slur — a hurtful, demeaning label. Language changes over time. The respectful response is to acknowledge that and move on.
Indeed, if Mr. Snyder has been really “listening and learning,” as his letter stated, he will realize the only way to end the controversy about his team’s unacceptable name is to change it.
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