Have you heard that Washington’s football team has a controversial name?

9 Oct

In this post I will give my thoughts about a topic that every person on the internet has already given their thoughts about. I don’t spend much or any time reading those thoughts. I do read Uni Watch every day, and Paul Lukas has lately been posting a daily summary of news on the topic. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone make this argument exactly, so here it is.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine a hypothetical world in which the team has always been called the Washington Hawks or whatever. Imagine that now in 2013 the moribund Jacksonville Jaguars franchise has decided to move to Los Angeles. This is a pretty plausible scenario. Imagine that the team wants a whole new start in LA. New colors, new logo, new name. Sounds reasonable. They’ll lose the alliteration of Jacksonville Jaguars and their team colors and uniforms are terrible. Imagine that there’s a fancy press event to unveil the team’s new identity. Everyone, say hello to the LA Redskins!

This would never happen. Why? Because calling your team the Redskins is obviously and flagrantly racist and no one today would even consider it as an actual possibility for a team name. It would be the largest PR blunder in history.

All the pro-Redskins arguments I’ve heard are about tradition or pride or “Native Americans aren’t actually offended by it” or some other kind of nonsense. I wish someone would make an actually intellectually honest case: “Yes it’s racist and no I don’t care.” Fine. I could at least respect the honesty of that.

Here’s another point. Maybe the most common pro-Redskins argument is the “Native Americans aren’t actually offended by it” one. It makes sense to me that that’s the case. When people refer to the Washington Redskins, they aren’t using the word pejoratively. In modern discourse, the NFL team is by far the most common source of that word’s use. I imagine most Native Americans have heard the word redskin used to refer to the football team much more frequently than in any other context. This has caused to word to lose a lot of its power to offend, and has over time become more and more innocuous. That argument makes logical sense. That doesn’t mean it’s a good argument. Let’s take it a step further. By the same logic, it would be a good idea to rename the team the Washington Niggers. Hey, there are a lot of black people in DC, and after fifty years or so the word nigger will stop being so offensive. Great idea, right? Obviously not.

So those are my thoughts. HOT SPORTS TAKE. OUT.


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