The Washington Redskins are a historic franchise with a proud history but that hasn’t stopped people from attacking their “offensive” name.
U.S President Barack Obama made headlines this Sunday when he said he would “think about changing” the Redskins team name because it offends “a sizable group of people”.
“I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” Obama said. “I don’t want to detract from the wonderful Redskins fans that are here. They love their team and rightly so.”
Hours after the President made his comments the Redskins organization responded with a statement through their attorney Lanny Davis.
“As a supporter of President Obama, I am sure the President is not aware that in the highly respected independent Annenberg Institute poll (taken in 2004) with a national sample of Native Americans, 9 out of 10 Native Americans said they were not bothered by the name the Washington Redskins.’” Davis said. “The President made these comments to the Associated Press, but he was apparently unaware that an April 2013 AP poll showed that 8 out of 10 of all Americans in a national sample don’t think the Washington Redskins’ name should be changed.
“The Redskins respect everyone. But like devoted fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks (from President Obama’s hometown), the fans love their team and its name and, like those fans, they do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group,” Davis continued. “The name ‘Washington Redskins’ is 80 years old — its history and legacy and tradition. The Redskins’ fans sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ every Sunday as an expression of honor, not disparagement.”
Davis made a point to reference other professional sports teams — the Braves, Indians and Blackhawks — as examples of fans that “love their team and it’s name” and that they do not intend to “disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group.”
The fight to retire the Redskins name dates back at least 40 years to a tense meeting at the team’s offices. That spring day in 1972, about a dozen American Indian representatives demanded of then-team President Edward Bennett Williams that the organization drop the nickname, which they described as a “derogatory racial epithet.”
The Redskins name is controversial but it is receiving plenty of support.
Former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs recently told radio station WNEW, “I never ever thought of it as anything negative, but it’s all been a positive and I think that’s what I reflect on when I reflect on the song, the games and everybody being loyal Redskin people.”
“If the population that is supposed to be offended isn’t, then why should everyone else be upset about it?” said Lisa Delpy-Nerotti, professor of tourism and sport management at George Washington University.
Despite all of the support from fans and media members, the statement by President Obama may be a sign that times are changing.
“As the first sitting president to speak out against the Washington team name, President Obama’s comments today are historic,” said Ray Halbritter, a representative for the Oneida Indian Nation, which has launched a “Change the Mascot” campaign against the team. “The use of such an offensive term has negative consequences for the Native American community when it comes to issues of self-identity and imagery.”
The fight to change the Redskins name has dragged on for decades and it doesn’t seem to be coming to an end any time soon. I for one, do not think that they should change their name. There is just too much history behind it. Like Joe Gibbs, when I think of the Redskins I never think of anything negative, it’s all positive.
Should the Washington Redskins change their name? What do you think?
Are the Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians next?
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