Tomorrow evening, October 27, the Dallas Cowboys will play the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Currently, the Cowboys are on a winning streak, and hopes for a successful season look brighter than a cure for Ebola. But, amidst the usual revelry of a brutal contact sport, the issue of naming has arisen once again – the Redskins’ name.
Yolanda Blue Horse, a Dallas resident and member of the Lakota Nation, has scheduled a formal protest outside the stadium for 3 p.m. on Monday.
“When we all stand together as one, we also honor those before us and those to come after us,” Blue Horse declared. “The continued use of this negative word is not only derogatory, but it is offensive and we demand that the owner, Dan Snyder, stop using this racist word to promote his football organization.”
For years Native Americans have been demanding that Washington change its team name; a racial slur as bad as nigger, spick, chink, or elected official. And, for years, Washington has balked at the suggestion. But, in recent years, I’ve noticed something different: people are starting to pay more attention to the issue. Moreover, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has taken greater interest in the subject. For the first time in memory, they’ve actually contemplated banning radio and TV stations from using the term ‘redskin’ while broadcasting.
“We will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we’ll be responding accordingly,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Wheeler admits he’s a critic of Washington’s name, calling it “offensive and derogatory” in a recent interview. He refers to the club as “the Washington football team” instead.
Banning the term ‘redskin’ would effectively prevent radio or TV outlets from utilizing it while on the air. If they do, in other words, they could lose their license. That would mean any TV network or radio station broadcasting a game featuring Washington couldn’t openly refer to them as the Washington Redskins. The announcers couldn’t utter it, and the name couldn’t be displayed even in written form. Therefore, it’s possible a network wouldn’t take the chance and decide not to televise the game. That could result in millions of dollars in lost revenue for the network and its sponsors. If Washington should make it to the annual Super Bowl, that could create a financial calamity. Earlier this year the U.S. Patent and Trade Office went so far as to cancel the team’s trademark; denouncing it as disparaging to Native Americans. That’s the closest anyone has come to banning ‘redskin’ from public usage at the national level.
This past spring 50 members of the U.S. Senate sent letters to National Football Commissioner Roger Goodell prodding him and the league to endorse a name change for Washington.
“The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” said one letter, signed by 49 senators. “We urge the NFL to formally support and push for a name change for the Washington football team.”
Not surprisingly, owner Dan Snyder has refused calls to change the team’s name, proclaiming it a noble moniker, not a slur. In a recent interview with ESPN, he once again insisted he won’t bow to public pressure. “It’s just historical truths,” he said, “and I’d like them to understand, as I think most do, that the name really means honor, respect.”
Snyder highlighted both William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz, Washington’s first coach and for whom the team was named to honor his “Native American heritage,” and Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, the late former president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Blackfeet Nation, who helped design and approve the team’s logo, as true-life examples of the positive history of the nickname.
I wrote up an essay on this issue a couple of years ago; wondering aloud if anyone would tolerate sports team names such as the Washington Niggers or the Houston Hebes. The word ‘redskin’ has a muddled history. Many claim it was a reference created by early European explorers and / or colonists who took note of the often-ruddy complexion some Indigenous Americans have. Others declare it was a reference to the reddish body paint some native peoples adorned themselves with, as they prepared for battle, or engaged in some kind of religious ceremonies. Whatever its origins, redskin is still a vulgar and racist term.
Quite frankly, though, some people of Indian extraction aren’t offended by it; seeing it strictly as a name only, with no racist overtones. In the ever-mutating world of American English, however, plenty of folks view attempts to ban ‘redskin’ and force Washington to change its name as another chapter in the ‘Book of Political Correctness.’
In an editorial last year, “Washington Post” columnist Charles Krauthammer lamented, “I don’t like being lectured by sportscasters about ethnic sensitivity. Or advised by the president of the United States about changing team names. Or blackmailed by tribal leaders playing the race card.”
The “Conservative Tribune,” deemed calls for Washington to change its name “absurd,” adding, “If anything, the team is showing respect to native Americans by actually naming themselves after them.” The same site also just published this brilliant photo of a “conservative’s reaction” to the ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ mantra over the Michael Brown shooting.
Erick Erickson, editor of RedState, blamed President Obama for the USPTO’s decision. “The lesson here is that guilty feeling white liberals are a threat to freedom and, in Barack Obama’s America, the key to survive is to not appear on the radar of in Washington, D.C.,” Erickson wrote. He further implicated “a bunch of overeducated white guys who cry during ‘Love Actually’” and “a class of men who pee sitting down.”
Rush Limbaugh noted the Patent and Trademark Office is part of the Obama Administration, which, in turn, is the source of all this “tyranny.”
Right-wing blogger Matt Barber sees an unsettling trend looming on the horizon with the USPTO’s decision. “Whether or not you believe the Redskins should change its team name, you should be concerned by this troubling development,” he wrote. “It’s a harbinger of things to come. The American free market and private enterprise are no longer free nor private. Liberty is under threat as never before. Here’s to the good ol’ U.S.A.! We’ve officially become an Obamanation.”
Comments to a “Dallas Morning News” piece about the matter last week displayed an exorbitant amount of vitriol. One man complained that he felt like suing the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain for its obviously racist name. Yes, I’m sure millions of Caucasian-Americans get sick to their stomach when they see the Cracker Barrel sign; that’s why so many of them keep patronizing those stores!
Okay, I get it! A bunch of middle-aged White conservatives are pissed off that someone dares to challenge their view of American society. It’s the same reaction many had to school desegregation and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They’re the ones who believe the United Nations still has covert operatives hovering along the U.S.-Canadian border, just waiting for the right moment to launch an assault and force gay marriage and mandatory abortions on God-fearing Americans.
No, you idiots, this isn’t political correctness. Political correctness is saying that all Indian people are great and wonderful, even if they’re drunk-ass bastards who engage in criminal behavior. Political correctness is telling men they must always respect women, no matter what stupid or awful things she does or says to him. Political correctness is U.S. foreign policy towards Israel.
Since Snyder is Jewish, he could easily change it to Washington Kikers, but then, political correctness would really get turned upside down. But, I believe the Washington Monuments would be appropriate. Washington, D.C., is home to some of the nation’s premier monuments to its heritage. Besides, a monument – as in the Washington Monument – is a long, thick column of granite, sticking straight up to the sky. I think it’s appropriate, considering football is the last bastion of male athleticism in the U.S.; a tribute to excess testosterone and men’s aggression.
Despite the right-wing rancor, this issue isn’t going away. And it’s never been a matter of political correctness; it’s simply a matter of respect.