The Redskins: Still a Racist Team Name

After going to the Library of Congress on Saturday, I picked up a free copy of the The Washington Examiner, just to have some reading material. I'd never read it before, and while going through it I realized that it's totally a conservative rag. Its Wikipedia article confirms that as the Examiner's intent, and its owner Philip Anschutz also financed the horrible propaganda movies Waiting for Superman and Won't Back Down, both of which I've condemned on this blog.

Crazy billionaire aside, however, a newspaper having a conservative bent is no reason for it to support racism. And yet, that's what I saw just on the second page.

In the Examiner, there's a little blurb called "Why won't the Kansas City Star print the name of Washington's football team?" Apparently the public editor of the Star, Derek Donovan, said that it is the paper's policy not to name the Washington Redskins because the name is "offensive to many people," an "egregiously offensive term," and a "racial slur." He also said he finds it "inconceivable that the NFL still allows a patently offensive name and mascot to represent the league in 2012." The Examiner writer's response to this is very brief: "The name of Kansas City's team? The Chiefs. Donovan says that name isn't racist."

Firstly I have to say - good on you, Mr. Donovan, for taking a stand (or rather, continuing a stand) against the Redskins. I too find it impossibly racist that the NFL still allows that name, and I think die-hard fans of the team (of which I see many) are complicit in that racism. Of course, those who are most responsible are the team owners, managers, and NFL leaders who could change things if they wanted to. They should be ashamed of themselves, and do what they can right now to move sports culture into the 21st century. That's also where the Examiner comes in - by laughing off the criticism and accusing Donovan of hypocrisy, the paper is also complicit in the continual passive racism of those who support the Redskins. As I mentioned back in 2011 here, the Redskins have been founded on racism since their inception as a team, and their name is the most reprehensible and most disgusting of any sports franchise in America.

However, I should note that the Kansas City Chiefs are also problematic as a team. The word "chief" is not a problem in and of itself like "redskin" is, but all sports teams that make a connection to "Native culture" without being connected to real Native culture perpetuate stereotypes and painfully overt racism. For example, back home in Alaska, Metlakatla High School sports teams are known as the Chiefs and Miss Chiefs, but as silly as that is, the community is almost entirely Native and I think they understand very well all the issues of culture at play. Meanwhile in Kansas City, the population there is 0.5% Native and those attending sports games are known to wear feathers, "war paint," and do other reprehensible things, while opponents may chant things like "Scalp the Chiefs!" This is disgusting and racist - no doubt about it.

To conclude, a name or a word is not racist on its own. If there was a large indigenous community in Washington, D.C., who supported the Redskins, then I don't think I'd have much of a case here. Instead, the most fanatic supporters of the team seem to be D.C.'s African American residents, which is a pretty sad irony. I'd like to see a Native village way up in Alaska name their sports team the Negroes, or maybe even the Whiteys, the Rednecks or the Yuppies. Maybe then the Examiner, the residents of D.C., and other sports fans throughout the country could get a little better understanding of what team name racism is like from the other side of the equation (though it still wouldn't be the same).

By the way, Happy Indigenous Peoples Day! "Columbus Day" is another example of American ignorance and racism toward Natives, but we'll have to discuss that another time.