How long will it take for owners of the National Football League’s (NFL’s) Washington Redskins to catch up with the rest of the world? The team’s misguided and chauvinistic pride in the name Redskins and its refusal to change the offensive name only serves to embarrass the organization and the NFL.
Supporters of the Redskins ownership decry as political correctness the call for a name change. That’s nonsense. As society becomes more enlightened and knowledgeable, people change the language they use to reflect a greater understanding of the world. Those who suffer from mental illness are no longer called “feeble-minded” or “morons.” Black Americans are no longer referred to as colored or worse.
Redskins is clearly a pejorative term. Read through Western literature or watch old Western movies and television shows and try to come up with examples of the word being used in a positive sense.
Individual high schools and colleges have slowly recognized the insensitivity of using Indian team names and accompanying images and have discontinued using them.
Brainerd High School students once sang a school song that described “tomahawks gleaming in the sun.” That wasn’t exactly a fair, fully informed, non-stereotypical image. The Brainerd School District wisely abandoned the Indian imagery and promoted a more generic Warrior nickname.
Proponents of the Indian team names may argue that they treat the name in a respectful manner, a claim that could be challenged. Even if they were granted this argument, there’s no way they can maintain they can control how opponents’ fans might use the name.
In the 1990s when North Dakota State University (NDSU) played its archrival, the University of North Dakota (UND) in football the NDSU students routinely broke into chants of “Sioux suck,” “Sioux suck,” even at games in which the Fighting Sioux were not the opponent. That chant didn’t exactly help the white and Indian cultures grow closer together. Under pressure from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, UND has since dropped the Sioux nickname.
The Washington Redskins visit the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome Nov. 7 to play the Minnesota Vikings. Let’s hope it’s the last time they come to town with that nickname.