Timeout! Oct. 23 Edition
For the first and possibly last time this semester, I’m going to be a little more serious. With a topic as inconsequential as sports, I usually don’t worry about my opinion being disagreed upon. We all have our opinions about sport topics and we all have our favorite teams. Part of what makes sports great is having those ‘friendly’ arguments about what team is the best or who is the best player.
But one particular issue that has become a hot button topic recently is the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Over the past few weeks, everyone from President Obama, NBC Sports analyst Bob Costas, and even the owner of the team himself, Dan Snyder, has offered their opinion on the topic. So, why not throw in my two cents on the argument too?
The Washington team has existed since 1932 when they were known as the Boston Braves, before changing the name to the Boston Redskins the following year. The team has been known as the Redskins ever since.
Recently, in a heartfelt letter to Washington fans, Snyder explained the fondness and memories that he and others have for the nickname. He wrote about his experience as a child going to his first game and about the way he felt about the team’s fight song: Hail to the Redskins. I read the letter in its entirety and tried to see the issue from his and other Washington fans point of view.
Being a lifelong sports fan, I understand the emotions involved with rooting for a team that you love. Everything about them is sacred to you. But I have to say that in this instance, Snyder is totally wrong and missing the point. It is simply not about him or the rest of the Washington fans.
Snyder went on in his letter to tell of the origin of the team, how it was formed with Native Americans in prominent roles on the team and that the name was made to honor them. The comparison can be made to African American symbols of service from the early part of last century, which I don’t have the time or space to get into now. But the point is, the symbols that are offensive to me today as an African American were deemed acceptable by society. But it’s not about me.
Bob Costas has been a longtime sports analyst on major network sporting events. He is very respected in both the journalism field and by players and fans. At halftime of the recent NFL game between Washington and Dallas, Costas spoke eloquently about the controversy surrounding the Redskins nickname. He poignantly asked what the equivalence would be if we were referring to African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or any other ethnic group. He went on to call the name “an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present day intent.” Again though, it’s not about Costas and what he thinks.
If you know anything about our current leader, you know that President Obama is a huge sports fan. He’s more of a basketball guy, but with this professional football team in our nation’s capital – he was asked to weigh in on the issue. He admitted that if he were the owner of the team whose nickname offended a sizable number of people, he would consider changing it. But it’s not about the leader of the Free World either.
Snyder said in his letter that extensive polling has been done to find out if Native Americans found the name offensive. The poll of nearly 1000 Native Americans found that 90 percent did not find it offensive. Surprisingly, it’s not about them either.
The point that Snyder is missing in his own research is that there is a group left. What about the ten percent of the Native Americans polled that were offended by the name? You know what? These are the people who this is all about.
I can’t tell anyone that they should or shouldn’t be offended by the name. I’m not Native American. What I do know is, if there is a percentage that finds the name offensive then everyone else’s opinion is irrelevant. The name then becomes offensive and needs to be changed. It’s time for the apathy to end and for the pressure to build, as it appears to be.
The team to root for is in every way possible the minority, even within their own. These people have to be spoken for. There’s no other side to take on this one.