If there is one person absolutely thrilled with all of the press attention being given to the likes of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Josh Gordon, Greg Hardy, and Ray McDonald – among others – it's the owner of Washington's football team, Dan Snyder. All of the press coverage being given to the domestic abusers, child abusers, and drug offenders, means less press coverage for Snyder and the controversy surrounding his football team's nickname. The less ink it gets, the happier Snyder is.
Eventually though, those court cases will be resolved, punishments handed out, and the waters around the NFL will calm again. Eventually, the controversy surrounding Snyder and his utter defiance about changing his team's nickname will come back into focus and have the spotlight shined on it once again. For many, sooner would be better than later.
It seems inexplicable in this day and age – in this post-Donald Sterling world – that the owner of a major sports franchise would fight tooth and nail, to keep a name that is recognized as a racial slur. Time and tradition changes, and what was acceptable decades ago isn't found to be acceptable today. Take Adrian Peterson for example – there was a time when hitting your child with a switch, regardless of whether or not it left actual injuries to the child, was deemed an acceptable disciplinary practice. That's not so today. If you injure your child in the course of “disciplining” them, you will face serious consequences. And rightly so.
Call it out of control political correctness if you wish, but the fact of the matter is that the term “redskin” is demeaning, it is insulting, and it is a racial slur. It is every bit as offensive as using the “N” word or any other demeaning racial slur people sometimes use.
If you've never experienced racism or had racial slurs thrown at you, you might not truly understand what the big deal is. But as somebody of Japanese descent, I have had a countless number of racial slurs directed at me growing up, so this is an issue I take particularly seriously. To me, defending the name of Washington's team is an exercise in defending the indefensible.
Though there are so many more, here are just 10 reasons Dan Snyder needs to change the name of his football club.
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10 The Team Name Has Been Changed Before
One argument people throw out is the tradition and history of Washington's moniker. They cite 80 years of history behind the team name and speak as if the team's name is sacrosanct. However, the team's name was already changed once. They didn't begin their existence with the current moniker. When the team was formed in 1932 in Boston, they were known as the “Braves.” The name was changed when the team moved from Braves Field to Fenway Park, ostensibly to avoid any confusion with the Boston Braves baseball team. So clearly, team co-owner George Preston Marshall didn't feel the name was sacred and changed it for a trivial reason – would anybody really confuse a football team with a baseball team? So the question then becomes, why has the team name taken on this mythical, sacred quality when it is clearly demeaning a great many people?
9 Annenberg Report Debunked
Over the course of this debate, Dan Snyder and his cohorts have relied upon a lot of opinion polls and other information to point to the fact that it's not an issue with most people. In particular, they rely on a 2004 Annenberg report in which 90% of Native American respondents claim to not be offended by the team's name. However, what they don't tell you is that the report is thoroughly flawed and has been debunked. The poll asked for people “self-identifying” as Native Americans whether or not they were offended by the team moniker. The key being, “self-identifying.” There was no follow up question to determine the level of heritage or tribal membership. Literally, anybody who thought they might have a drop or two of Native American blood in their veins was invited to weigh in on the question. To further debunk this study, a 1990 census showed that 1.8 million people in the United States self-identify as Native American. However, official tribal membership at that time was 1.14 million. Obviously, there is a glaring discrepancy. If Dan Snyder wanted a credible poll, he would hire an outfit to go poll actual Native Americans, and not just people who “self-identify” as Native Americans, and get their opinion on the matter. But he's yet to do that. I wonder why?
8 An Actual Poll of Native American People Further Debunks the Annenberg Report
A 2014 study conducted by James Fenelon, a Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at California State University San Bernardino, found that in direct contrast to the 10-year old Annenberg Report, a vast majority of Native American people actually do find Washington's team moniker offensive and racist – 66% in fact. For the purposes of his research, Fenelon authenticated the tribal membership of respondents, making sure that actual Native Americans were being polled rather than “self-identified” Native Americans.
7 The Donald Sterling Effect
The NBA isn't typically the forerunner of social change. However, that perception changed dramatically with the Donald Sterling situation. After he'd been secretly recorded making very inflammatory and racist statements – and then those tapes were made public – the league acted swiftly in first condemning, and then stripping him of his team. While Commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to do anything but support Dan Snyder and the name of his team, eventually, the pressure is going to reach a boiling point and Goodell will be forced to act. If Sterling can be stripped of his team for making racist statements in what he was a private setting, at some point, Goodell will need to recognize the fact that having a team in his league not just using, but flaunting, a very clearly defined racial slur as the team nickname, is an untenable situation. Public opinion is moving toward forcing Snyder to change the team name and he'd be wise to get ahead of it and do the right thing.
6 The Team Name Highlights the NFL's Hypocrisy
Understandably, the perception of the league is of little consequence to Dan Snyder. He's more than happy to stand by and watch as Roger Goodell catches all of the slings and arrows that had been aimed at him. The continued use of a racial slur for a team's name – and Goodell's punishment of those found using racial slurs on the field, is a situation that highlights the league's hypocrisy in dealing with racial situations. Recently, San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kapernick was fined more than $11,000 for allegedly using a racial slur on the field. Yet Dan Snyder continues to operate freely using a racial slur without any consequence – to this point. Again, with the league already under fire for a number of different situations, and their handling of them, it is only a matter of time before the pendulum swings back to Snyder and the situation in Washington. Goodell is relatively thin-skinned as it is and eventually, his hypocrisy in this matter is going to be exposed. He would be better off changing it before he's forced to change it or lose his team entirely.
5 It's Actually Been An Issue for Quite a While
Another way that Snyder and his minions attempt to marginalize and minimize the controversy is by referring to is as just another overreach by the PC police or try to dismiss it as the cause du jour by liberal activists. However, that's not actually the case. The controversy over the team's nickname dates back at least to 1972, with Native American activists pushing for a change in the team name more than 40 years ago. The protests and controversy surrounding the team's name has existed for literally half of the team's existence. So no, this is not a recent issue, nor a cause du jour by the PC police. This has been an ongoing issue for a long, long time. And it needs to change.
4 The History of Washington's Team is Steeped in Racism
For all of the talk of history and tradition, what Washington fans fail to acknowledge or talk about is the history of racism associated with the team and the name. When team owner George Preston Marshall formed his team, he was violently opposed to signing African-American players. In fact, for more than two decades, Marshall was known as the “leading racist in the NFL.” Though other teams in the league began integrating their teams as early as 1946, Marshall held strong to his “anti-black player” position until 1962 – until Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy threatened to revoke Marshall's stadium lease if he failed to integrate. So the tradition Washington fans so desperately cling to is one of exclusion and violent racism. Which makes it rather hard to believe that with a history so steeped in racism as Washington's is, that the team name was conferred to “honor” a minority group.
3 It's Becoming Bad Business
Sadly, most of the NFL's owners will refuse to act until they are either overwhelmingly shamed into doing so, or their bank accounts are threatened. Given the fact that the US Trademark and Patent Office officially canceled the team's trademark registration because it considers the nickname to be disparaging, that second criteria is certainly being met. Anybody and everybody can use Washington's logo in any way they see fit as no official trademark exists any longer. And given the fact that all of the owners share in the revenue pie generated by team merchandise, that pie will be a little bit smaller thanks to the cancellation of Washington's trademark. Add into that mix, the possibility that the FCC will begin banning the team's moniker from television broadcasts – making it a offense that can carry stiff fines – and it's clear the Snyder's violent opposition to changing the team's name is rapidly becoming bad business for all of the NFL owners. And when business is bad and the owners see themselves losing money, it becomes a problem.
2 It's a Dictionary Defined Racial Slur
If there was any doubt about whether or not the term “redskin” is a racial slur or not, I direct you to open up the nearest dictionary and look it up. Washington's team name is very clearly defined as a racial slur – every bit as much as the “N” word or any of the other racial slurs attributed to other minority groups. There is no gray area here. No room for claiming to be “honoring” a group by the continued use of a racial slur – a racial slur the groups you're claiming to be honoring have asked you to change. Unless of course, you consider the dictionary to now be a part of the liberal, PC agenda.
1 It's Just the Right Thing to Do
Not that doing the right thing is really much a blip on Dan Snyder's radar, but if he were, changing the name would in fact be doing the right thing. Countless thousands of Native Americans have spoken out about how offensive and degrading the team name is, and are urging Snyder to reconsider his use of it. Just as we wouldn't have a team name called the “N” word, it makes no sense to have one with that name either. Continuing to use a name that Native Americans have been fighting the use of for more than four decades is not honoring them. It's continuing to degrade them. It's continuing to perpetuate the use of a racial slur. Things change over time. And while some things were considered socially acceptable 80 years ago – such as using the “N” word freely – times change. That word is no longer considered socially acceptable. And neither is using Washington's team name. It's time Snyder, and everybody who supports the continued use of that name, step into the 21st century and do the right thing. Stop the continued degrading and offensive use of that team name.
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