Redskins name under attack

Redskins name under attack
July 15
13:36 2020

Over the last decade there have been several instances where the Washington Redskins have been called out for their alleged insensitive name. Majority owner Dan Snyder has held steadfast throughout that time that he would not change the name of the team. Fast forward to the summer of 2020 and now a name change seems imminent.

The debate over the Redskins’ name has been around since the 1960s. With the social climate of the country becoming more and more politically correct, this was the perfect storm for those who oppose the Redskins name to push for a change. Admittedly this is a touchy subject for me, because I have been a diehard Redskins fan since I was a child.  

But the writing is on the wall now that sponsors have started to pull sponsorships, along with stores and websites pulling the Washington merchandise off their shelves and sites. I guess once the bottom line starts to become affected, then change begins to happen.

Being an African American male, I can see where people are coming from when they say the name Redskins is offensive. I know for a fact I would be against any team being called the brownskins, whiteskins or yellowskins, so I understand where the Native American community is coming from.

Earlier this month Washington announced the franchise will review the team’s name. There was no timetable for findings from the review, but head coach Ron Rivera said it “would be awesome” if the name change came before the 2020 season. Up to this point, Native American groups say they have not heard from the team.

The negative press has gotten so bad that the minority owners of the team are looking to sell their stakes in the team. Snyder has fought this fight long enough and now I think he realizes he does not have any other option now.

The thing that has me torn about the name change is the opposing views from different Native American groups. Some of the groups feel that the name is racist, while others think the name represents the Native American culture. But I guess if it’s offensive to even a small minority of the population, that should be enough to change the name, even if the majority of that group does not agree.

Chief Kenneth Branham of the Monacan Indian Nation has been one of the individuals that has been hoping to get the name changed for years.

“Would you ever put up with a team being the Chicago Sambos?” Branham said in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “Or the Chicago Blackskins? The Philadelphia Jews?”

Other Native Americans, like Chief Walt “Red Hawk” Brown of the Cheroenhaka Tribe, don’t find the name offensive.

“This is a strong symbol that represents my people, my culture, my traditions,” Brown said in the same article. Redskins. Because we are Redskins. That’s what we are.”

For Brown, he said people who are opposed to the name change don’t understand its historical roots. He sees the removal of native imagery and references as essentially an attempt to whitewash history.

“We used red paint for healing,” Brown continued. “We used it when we went to war. Our skins were red – red from the sun and red from the particular root that we used to put the red paint on our faces, on our arms and on our legs.”

Others such as Chief Lynette Allston of the Nottoway Indian Tribe looks at the name differently. When she hears the name Redskins, she thinks not of her people’s culture and traditions, but of the historical oppression they have faced for generations, she said in the same article.

There are just so many viewpoints on the name, so anyone who has an opinion on the topic can easily find a Native American tribe that agrees with their narrative.

When I first heard that the team was reviewing a name change, I was initially stunned. But then I began to think, ‘Is this how white people feel when Black people say something is offensive to them?’

I had to stop being a fan and start looking at this through the lens of how I feel when our community expresses frustration. Throughout my life I can remember things that the Black community has expressed that racist and mainstream America did not agree. I guess some of the Native Americans feel the same way about the name as most Black people feel about the Confederate flag and Confederate statues that have recently come under attack, finally.

I am at the point now that there is no sense in fighting the name change, because obviously it does offend enough people to matter. And I am referring to only the Native American people who take offense to the name, not “other groups” who tend to hijack any and every cause.

There are several names that have been discussed as possible replacements: Warriors, Redtails, Redwolves and others. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Washington is planning to have no Native American imagery, per a league source, but they plan on keeping the burgundy and gold colors “as of now.”

I will continue to be a fan of the Washington franchise, no matter what the name change turns out to be.  I understand that some people have decades long ties to the team and don’t want to see it changed, but have a heart, people, and understand that if it matters to some, it should matter to us all, plain and simple.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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