Another Reason To Change The Name Of The Washington Football Team
My parents raised me with two very important values: Always root for Washington sports teams and respect others. Oddly enough these two seemingly disparate things have been coming into conflict recently.
Despite pressure from Congress members, fans, activists and others, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder refuses to change the name of the team (which I will hereby no longer refer to by its given name). Snyder, as well as Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, argue that the name is worth keeping because it has a long history with fans and isn’t all that offensive.
Of course, as a recent New York Times article notes, there’s also millions of dollars at stake, which I would guess is the more pressing concern. It’s true that changing the name of a hugely profitable, decades-old franchise would require millions of dollars in research, new marketing and the production of new merchandise, but it’s well worth the cost — described in the Times piece as “a drop in the bucket,” for the team — and may even end up making Snyder some money.
As the controversy surrounding Paula Deen indicates, there’s little money in racism. Walmart, Target, J.C. Penney, Sears and a whole slew of other retailers dropped the former Food Network star after she admitted using racial slurs in the past. I’ll give the executives behind these decisions the benefit of the doubt and assume they chose to drop Deen in part because they found her comments offensive, but I also doubt they would have made the decision if they thought it would significantly hurt their bottom line.
Yes, for whatever reason, American culture still views racism against Native Americans differently than racism against other minorities, as a recent poll in which the majority of Washington fans said they would prefer to keep the team name, indicates. But that doesn’t mean the tide won’t change soon or that a historic institution that’s embedded in the fabric of a diverse city shouldn’t push it to before it’s ready.
From personal experience I can say it’s likely the decision to leave the racist name in place is already costing Snyder some money. My parents and many other Washington fans I know want to show their support for the team, but they can’t stomach the idea of paying for and then wearing a jersey they view as offensive.
Recently, Snyder trotted out a Native American chief with controversial credentials to lend credence to the theory that Native Americans are proud of the name. Though I don’t know much about his qualifications, the man was right about one thing, it’s difficult for non-Native Americans to speak credibly on the issue of whether the name is offensive.
So speaking as a white person, I’ll say that it makes me uncomfortable to wear a t-shirt with a racial slur on it. That’s why until Snyder changes the name, I won’t be buying or sporting any Washington Football gear.
It’s a little bit unclear why Snyder is so worried to do the right thing; there’s precedent around the country and specifically in Washington for changing the name and logo of a sports team. In the 1990s, Abe Pollin, the now-deceased former owner of Washington’s basketball team changed its name from the Bullets to the Wizards to take a stand against gun violence. The Wizards is frankly a terrible name, but Washingtonians still root for the team and buy Wizards jerseys. In addition, the move solidified Pollin’s legacy as a shrewd businessman with a conscious.