There’s been a controversy in the football world lately about whether the Washington Redskins should change their name. Native American groups say that the name is offensive to them. Even the President has weighed in on the matter. (Personally, I wish he would just say “no comment” when people ask him questions about sports or popular culture, but whatever.)
The Wikipedia article about how they got the name is interesting–apparently, their coach at the time was a white man pretending to be a Native American. But it didn’t shed much light on the meaning of the name. That’s something I could never figure out–why name yourselves with a derogatory term?
I would argue that the name has been associated more or less exclusively with the football team for so long now that it has lost all association with the slur against Native Americans. Say “Redskins” to anyone, and the football team is the first thing they think of. The original, derogatory nature of the word has been practically forgotten.
But that said, it is weird that they have such a name, and I wouldn’t feel bad if they changed it to something more acceptable like “The Warriors”, as some have suggested. (Then they could wear this cool spear helmet that’s much better anyway) None of the other pro football teams are named anything remotely so controversial. The only one I can think of that’s close is college football’s “Fighting Irish” of Notre Dame, which perpetuates the stereotype of the Irish as short-tempered and belligerent.
Ultimately, of course, pro football is about money, and so I suppose ultimately what will decide the issue is whether they think the name makes or costs them more. As you can tell, I have no strong opinion on it one way or the other, so I’m curious to know what my readers think of the issue.