Do the Redskins Need a New Name?

Time for something less offensive?

Getty Images

Sunday’s Super Bowl brings another year of pro football to an end - another year of embarrassment for Washington’s team.

It’s not the team’s record I have in mind, nor the fact that it hasn’t won a Super Bowl in 20 years. Nor is it team owner Dan Snyder’s ridiculous lawsuit against Washington City Paper. No, it’s that name.

The Washington Post’s Courtland Milloy wrote last month, “Why is it okay to use ‘redskins’ but not, say, ‘blackskins’ or ‘whiteskins’? Suppose some team chose as its mascot a spear-chucking Mandingo warrior who ran up and down the sidelines in a diaper? No way.” But “having slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Indians, we romanticize the tragedy by turning Native Americans into sports mascots.”

There are a few major teams that have American Indian-themed names - like the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and Kansas City Chiefs. While these aren’t much better, none is as racist as the “Washington Redskins.”

And yes, our local NFL franchise’s name is racist. There is no way around it. If a team’s name is a word you wouldn’t use in any other context, or want to hear your children using, it’s a bad name.

Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian, told Milloy, “I see the name of the team and all of the imagery as being a continuation of a process than began a long time ago to define us in a very limited way, as less than human. … It is a slur, a word that was used to degrade us, hurt our feelings and make us angry.”

This is not a case of political correctness.  No similar word describing any other racial or ethnic group would be used in polite conversation, let alone be used as the name of a $1.6 billion enterprise.

And it’s hard to think of any reason not to adopt a new name. The offending name has no roots in D.C. - the Boston Braves became the Boston Redskins in 1933, four years before the team moved to Washington. The team isn’t racist, the players aren’t racist, the fans aren’t racist. So why not a change? The team could certainly use a fresh start, and Snyder could use a P.R. boost.

(Snyder, for his part, mentioned his thoughts on the team's current name in a radio interview on Friday.)

What would the new name be? A little more than a year ago, The Week gathered 19 options from around the web -- everything from the Power to the Federals to the Hogs. Any one of them would be better than what we have now.

Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC

Contact Us