Monday, December 8, 2014

One of America's Oldest Cases of Racism, Still Around Today

With all the coverage of racism (Mike Brown, Eric Garner) in the news recently, I ran into one blaring issue that I’m actually embarrassed the people of the US haven’t fixed yet. The Washington Redskins’ name hasn't been changed. To me, this is like having a sports team named the N*ggers or the Ky*es. The word has had an extremely negative connotation, and sadly, because of a diminishing NA population, there aren’t many able to defend themselves against this injustice.
The argument that this team is a private enterprise isn’t any excuse to trying to stop change. The second Donald sterling was discovered to be extremely racist, the public went absolutely sideways, and he lost his team. this team’s owner, in our nation’s capital, no less, made statements saying that he wouldn't ever change the team name, and supporters say this whole case is just “political correctness gone mad” (BBC). Apparently, outward racist terms being used is now PC gone mad. If this team was named after any other ethnic group that had the population to properly defend themselves, it wouldn't have lasted nearly this long.
Do you think the team should be changed? If so, how?
Are there any other examples of organizations with insensitive/racist names that have fought to keep their names?
Are there any other reasons, besides racism, that the owner would not want to change the name?

interesting related story: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30314290

8 comments:

Emma Wynn said...

I think the Washington Redskins is a pretty offensive name, especially due to how we have treated the Native Americans in the past. I think one reason teams may not want to change their names is purely based on tradition. It obviously would cost the franchise a lot of money to change their name, making them less likely to push for change. I am not justifying the name of the team in any way, I think it should be changed, however, it seems like the owners could be motivated by more than just "racism."

Vivian Shen said...

Personally, I don't believe that any team should be named after fellow human beings. After all, teams like the Arabs you're just inviting racist stereotyping and imagery. However, unfortunately there have been quite a few instances where racially insensitive names have been used, usually in regards to Native Americans. Will we ever be able to fully get rid of racism in regards to sports teams mascots/names/logos? Who knows?

Nevertheless, I do believe it is important for us to try. Teams have been able to change in the past; for example, the Buffalo Braves changed their logo from a mid-battle cry Native American to a much less controversial image. It is important to pressure all of these teams into being more politically correct when it comes to sports teams/mascots, and I'm certain that with enough media pressure, this can happen.

On another note, is it okay for things like the "Dons" to be used as mascots? How about the Carlmont Scots? I know that it's a bit different of course, especially since Redskins is racial slang, but still: how do you feel about our own mascot?

CleoWienbar7 said...

I think that in addition to standing behind a racist name, the entire Washington DC football team is just a total mess. They have had eight coaches in 16 seasons, signaling a deeper conflict within the team. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/as-another-season-goes-down-the-drain-redskins-are-again-disintegrating-publicly/2014/12/07/10eba61c-7c1b-11e4-84d4-7c896b90abdc_story.html) Owner Dan Snyder is obviously a difficult man to work for.
While they have already had their copyright revoked, the team might need to seriously implode before the name changes. Snyder has held on to the team since 1999, but if he sells the team, (most likely for very, very cheap), the new buyer will probably want to change the name and start with a clean slate.

Spencer Larsen6 said...

I've got to somewhat disagree with those who have commented on this issue. I'll start off by saying that I believe that the name should be changed, but the name Redskins is not as bad as Andros' first example of an African American derogatory term. The reason why is because of the history of the word Andros used. People are more informed of how that word is wrong and evil because they have learned how it used to be used and what it represented. In terms of the word Redskin, most people don't know the history of the use of the word. Therefore,many people are not informed how Redskin is a derogatory term. If people want the name to change they need to inform people WHY the word Redskin is offensive to American Indians. However it hasn't helped that some Native American Chief's have publicly supported the Redskin organization. Also in reply to another comment: a team with the name "Arabs" is just nonsensical. Its like saying the Washington Hispanics, or Washington Caucasians. Lastly someone said that if Dan Snyder sold the team it would be for very cheap, but this is not true. The Redskins were a playoff team just two years a go and have a value of $1.55 billion, that is in the top 10 for all NFL franchises.

Andros Petrakis said...

@spencer, I disagree with you saying the word isn't as harsh because people don't know what it means. The reason most don't know that it is so derogatory is because it isn't used as much anymore, because we killed off almost all the natives, adding insult to injury. Also, just because someone doesn't know that a word is bad, doesn't make it any less hurtful. I would argue that the decriminalization of the word by today's society is even more insulting to Native Americans, because now a word that has had so much hate towards them in the past is commonly accepted as OK, when in fact it is not.

Matthew McHugh said...

I'll start by saying that Daniel Snyder should change the team's name, but I don't think that he should be forced to. He owns the team, so he can do what he wants to do with the name. However I think that it would probably be in his best interests to change the name ASAP for a couple of reasons. Right now, as Cleo mentioned, the team is pretty awful and their supposed franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III is looking more and more like a bust every week. With the team in flux on the field, having the name change take over all of the headlines probably wouldn't be so bad for Snyder and management. It's a pretty easy way to divert attention from their awful play. Additionally, most people would probably be more opposed to keeping the name than changing it. Changing the name probably won't cause a giant uproar among the fans, especially if they do a fan vote or something to ask for suggestions for a new name.
As a more general topic, how do people decide which team names and mascots are racist and which ones aren't? For example, the "celtics" name was initially derived from a derogatory term, but it doesn't cause any controversy and seems to be widely accepted among the Irish population. Basically, where should people draw the line when it comes to team names and racism?

William Miyahira said...

Obviously, changing the Washington Redskin's name and presumably their logo as well would cost the franchise a lot of money, which would be a turnoff for the higher management of the organization. However, I do believe that the name should be changed, as it reflects a negative slur towards native americans (even if there are some chiefs who support the team). I agree with Andros in saying that many people don't recognize the word "redskin" is because of its sparing usage in today's language. Despite that, I feel that that is no reason for such a historically harsh word like this to be the face of a professional sports franchise. I'm not quite sure that we can eliminate all racist names or mascots in sports, but perhaps this would be a possible spark for change.

Brendan Vroom 6 said...

I think that the main reason why the Redskins name has not been changed yet is that it would be extremely inconvenient not only for the management of the team, but also the fans who have purchased jerseys and other team-affiliated gear that displays the logo and name of the team. This being said, I do believe that the team should respond to the heavy criticism it has drawn, and at least change the offensive name, if not the logo as well.

However, I think there is a certain threshold at which considering something offensive is an overreaction. As Vivian said, I would not consider the Dons or the Carlmont Scots to be insensitive.