The Washington Redskins have been the center of controversy over their racially insensitive moniker for at least the past 30 years. However, the Washington NFL franchise has the ghost of racist owners of yesteryear floating around the stadium as the late founder George Preston Marshall was historically known as a frothy-mouthed, card-carrying racist who didn’t sign his first Black player until 1962, and that was because he was mandated to do so by the federal government.
History Of Racially-Apathetic Ownership
In 1988, former owner Jack Kent Cooke said about the name; “There is not a single, solitary jot, tittle, whit chance in the world. I like the name, and it’s not a derogatory name.”
Fast forward to 32 years in the future and we find that the energies of racial animus created at the founding of the Washington, DC football franchise are fighting tooth and nail for the illegitimate right to exist, the right to offend, and the right to objectify an entire group of people.
Change The Name
In 2013, President Obama and Tony Dungy, both singled out owner Dan Snyder for the team’s lack of empathy (related: Rich people have less empathy).
“If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team, even if they’ve had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it,” Obama said.
Dungy echoed the sentiments, saying, “I hope Daniel Snyder does reconsider and change it. The Redskins nickname is offensive to Native Americans. In 2013, we need to get that name changed. … We need to do that. I hope Snyder changes his mind.”
Back in 2014 many in the sports world believed that we were in for a long-overdue change when the United States Trademark Office canceled six trademark registrations for the name “Redskins” at the behest of plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse. The court ruled that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans” and because of federal law that bans the protection of offensive language.
But here we are still having the very same conversation six years later. Back then it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Snyder relented. However, the fire in the bellies of those most vehemently opposed to the name was doused by a deluge of contrarians, gaslighters and “traditionalists” who posited that the name was a part of their heritage similar to how neo-Confederates love up on the banner of terrorist’s treasonous cause.
In the past, professional, collegiate and high school teams have all come under scrutiny for this practice. For example, both Syracuse University (2004) and St. John’s University (1994) changed their names from the Orangemen and the Redmen, to the Syracuse Orange and the St. John’s Red Storm.
Two surveys, one conducted by the Annenberg Institute and the other by the Washington Post, revealed that up to 91 percent of Native Americans surveyed believed the name change was unimportant.
Societal pressure is a very effective catalyst for change. However, when an individual has more money than he could possibly spend in a lifetime, the idea of being cast out of society is hard to fathom. Dan Synder’s money has insulated him from mismanagement and ineptitude as the owner of the Washington franchise, that is until now.
Attack The Bag
Last week, Adweek reported that a whooping 87 investors and shareholders, worth a combined $620 billion, sent a letter to three big dog sponsors–Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo—to support a name of change for the team.
This is pivotal because every other effort to change the name was mostly a grassroots based movement. However, with sponsors getting in on the act, Snyder’s days of stonewalling change and cosigning historic racism may be coming to an end.
This is the first professional sports team to come under fire for racially derogatory names and imagery since the current iteration of race-based societal tumult.
In the letter from the investors to Nike, it stated, “the use of the R-word as the name and mascot of the Washington National Football League team is offensive and hurtful to American Indian and Alaska Native people and causes direct, harmful effects on the physical and mental health and academic achievement of the American Indian and Alaska Native populations, particularly youth; and … despite the team’s arguments to the contrary, the R-word is not a term of honor or respect, but rather, a term that still connotes racism and genocide for Native peoples and for all others who know of this history and recognize that it is wrong to characterize people by the color of their skin.”
The renewed pressure comes at a time when American corporations are breaking their necks to distance themselves from brands that use stereotypical and racist images to sell products. But no movement on what people are asking for, police accountability.
Head coach Ron Rivera, one of just four minority NFL coaches, says he’s working with Synder on some new team nicknames. The Washington NFL team has said that they will do a “thorough review” of the name change. But forgive my lack of enthusiasm.