Redskins Helmet

There's growing support for renaming Washington's football team.

This is an update to last Saturday’s entry on the Washington NFL team’s name. First, for the benefit of people who left the thread before the last comment was entered on Monday, as I note there the Washington Post selected five letters to the editor to publish that day on the subject, of which three supported ditching the current name for good reasons.

There are a few more letters on a possible name change today, mostly humorous (“the Washington Bureaucrats,” “the Drones”), but the real news is that columnist Sally Jenkins, who is the conscience of WaPo‘s sports section if anyone is, has advanced the momentum for a name change with a really trenchant piece.

It seems that as propaganda against changing the name the team’s website (to which no link will appear here since it’s offensive) has lately taken to listing high schools in the nation that also use the R-word as their team’s name — as if the mores out there in Middle America were definitive — and to interviewing their coaches on the kids’ supposed consciousness of the issues. To this Jenkins responds:

I’m willing to hazard that most 10th graders don’t realize a team calling itself [the R-word] might as well rename itself the Darkies, Guidos, or Slant Eyes. I’m pretty sure they are unaware that the term [R-word] dates to the settler era when hunters boasted about shooting down “damned government pets” and peddled Indian scalps as if they were animal pelts along with deerskins and bearskins.

She goes on to satirize the team owner’s appeal to “heritage” as a defense of the name, by noting the actual heritage: the owner who originally coined it was a racist anti-Semite. And there is more, including a choice remark from a participant at that recent symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian (cited in my previous post), and a suggestion that the U.S. Armed Forces get on the owner’s case by reminding him of the American Indians who have served.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for that last one, and I think ultimately the trademark lawsuit mentioned in the previous post may prove decisive. But read the article. My only criticism is that Jenkins should stop spelling out the R-word (or if it’s her editor that’s making her use it he should stop). There are newspapers in this country that have found ways to report on games involving inappropriately-named teams that sidestep mentioning the names, so it is possible.

A suggestion to commenters: wendydavis has persuaded me that it is too extreme to flag comments that spell out the R-word, a slippery slope leading to censorship (see her @ 17, 20, and 30 on the last post). Still, I wish you wouldn’t do it. Imo THE R-WORD IS JUST AS OFFENSIVE AS THE N-WORD.

Photo by Keith Allison released under a Creative Commons Share Alike license.

E. F. Beall

E. F. Beall