Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, May 24, 2018

Quick Take: Should the Washington Redskins change their name?

Quick Take writers give their views on the implications of the longstanding but controversial franchise name.

Other non-offensive names would suit the Redskins
By Emma Williams

The name “Washington Redskins” is incredibly offensive and should be changed as soon as possible. If a team was named the “Blackskins” there would be a massive outcry and it would be forced to change its name. Although our country has certainly not moved into a post-racial era, we should all be working together to move our society forward and away from harmful racial stereotypes.

The only people who support keeping the Redskins’ name are those who feel they can make more money through capitalizing on traditions and familiarity with the name. D.C. team owner Dan Snyder recently wrote an open letter to fans saying that he is against changing the name because it represents “a great history, tradition and legacy representing our proud alumni and literally tens of millions of loyal fans worldwide.” Yet, Snyder fails to realize that it simultaneously mocks and degrades Native Americans across the country.

In a response to Snyder’s letter, Oneida Indian Nation leader Ray Halbritter noted that “the marketing of this racial slur has had, and continues to have, very serious cultural, political, and public health consequences for my people and Native Americans everywhere.” Snyder simply does not understand that keeping the name for high ticket sales comes at the expense of demeaning and excluding Native Americans by reinforcing racial stereotypes and promoting bigotry. Words have power, and callously using this offensive term, along with its outdated mascot and logo, will only lead to further prejudice towards Native Americans.

The team’s location in D.C. lends itself to many different names that would more accurately reflect the values of our country, such as the name of a founding father or president, even simply the “Americans.” Hopefully Snyder will grow to understand the ramifications of his team’s current name and begin to work with American Indian tribes to find a more inclusive alternative.

Emma Williams is a freshman in the School of Communication.

High cost for a name change is no excuse
By Katlyn Hirowaka

The issue of whether or not the Washington Redskins should change their name should not be a question of financial burden on the franchise, but rather should be treated as a moral issue. We need to move beyond using a stereotypic of race to represent the mascot for an NFL team.

Throughout history, our country has experienced issues with racism and stereotypes regarding labels for brands and products. Racist labels targeting African-Americans such as “Aunt Jemima” have been largely recognized as stereotypical, but people tend to forget the labels that exploit the stereotypes of Native Americans.

Many claim the U.S. has learned from its past mistakes, but we still accept the stereotypes in these labels. We need to recognize the moral dilemma of the Redskins representing D.C., a center of policymaking in our country, and its mascot that epitomizes continued racism in our country.

If there was an NFL team that was coined “the N***ers”, there would be backlash on the racist nature of this label. Shouldn’t it be the same for the Redskins? There is not even any Native American representation on this team. As an Asian-American, I would be offended if a professional sports team was called the “Yellowskins.” Teams with these racist labels probably have have a small fan base from the group it is offending.

We cannot accept changing the franchise name of the Redskins is too expensive. Back in the 60s, many people made excuses against the abolishment of the “separate but equal” system, but the country still recognized that segregation needed to stop. The franchise of the Washington Redskins needs to take steps to change their image, rather than make excuses as to why it is okay to promote a stereotypical and racist label of Native Americans.

Katlyn Hirowaka is a freshman in the School of Communication.

Dan Snyder should ‘pay his respects’ by listening to Native Americans
By Marisa Fein

Since the day Christopher Columbus first set foot on American soil, Native Americans have been subjected to an absurd amount of persecution and mistreatment. From the Trail of Tears to the Dawes Act of 1887, America’s indigenous people have undoubtedly been victims of extreme maltreatment at the hands of Americans. And now D.C.’s football team the Redskins can add to this long list of degradation.

No matter how you put it, the word ‘redskin’ is a racial slur. If it is inappropriate to refer to a person of Native American descent as being “redskin,” then why is it OK to refer to a national football team in this way? Team owner Dan Snyder, however, claims that the name is meant to honor Native Americans for their “strength, courage, pride, and respect.” What Snyder fails to see is that the name does the complete opposite. The word ‘redskin’ brings to mind an image of a stereotypical Native American. One does not even have to conjure the image themselves, as the team has already done so, their logo being a caricature complete with long black hair adorned with feathers and a red complexion. How can Snyder and those who support the use of the Redskins name claim to honor a group of people when they portray that group as little more than a stereotype?

If Snyder does indeed intend to pay his respects to Native American culture, then why is he not compelled to act? A growing number of Native American groups, including the National Congress of American Indians, have come forward and declared that they take issue with the team being called the Redskins. Snyder has justified the team name by calling any controversy unintentional, meaning no offense can be taken because he did not mean to offend anyone. This severely flawed logic is equivalent to when a person adds the phrase “no offense” to a clearly offensive comment, as if by saying this somehow makes a distasteful comment OK. The amount of controversy generated over the name shows that people obviously do take offense to the team being called the Redskins.

Racism in any form is never OK, even if it is unintentional. By referring to the team as the Redskins, a precedent is being set that this is an acceptable way to refer to a Native American person. It’s not. The solution to this problem is simple: change both the name and the logo. An easy team re-branding is all that is needed to solve this controversy and will not affect how the team plays. Change the name so that we can go back to talking about what really matters, the game of football.

Marisa Fein is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences.


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