Will the Redskins Change Their Racist Name Soon? They'd Better.

the logo (source)
A news story came out in the last few days that can be summarized like this: The Washington Redskins football team has been doing relatively better recently, so some have proposed moving the team's permanent location to somewhere inside the District of Columbia, rather than outside it in Maryland. DC's mayor Vince Gray then stated that as a prerequisite to the Redskins moving into DC proper, there would have to be a discussion about the team's racist name. Cue media cycle.

I really appreciate Mayor Gray saying what he did. As I've written before—here and here—"Redskins" truly is a racist name. The team and its moniker were created by George Preston Marshall, a racist who kept his team from accepting black players until he was forced to in 1962—the very last pro football team to integrate. (See this article for more on that story.) So, why has the name "Redskins" stuck around for all this time, and is there a chance it could finally be changed? Let's look.

The reasons that the name "Redskins" still exists are pretty simple: 1. When the case against the name was brought to the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2005, the judges ruled in favor of racism. 2. The Redskins are (amazingly) the highest-grossing and second most valuable team in the NFL, so there's huge money in perpetuating the franchise's racism. And 3. there hasn't been enough pressure placed on the team by either governmental organizations or the general public. Maybe that can change.

the location of the Redskins' stadium
in Landover, MD, east of the District
Here are the reasons I think it's possible the Redskins might change their name within the next several years: 1. As mentioned at the beginning, a move to a stadium inside the District could allow Mayor Gray or other government officials to pressure the team into changing. 2. The Idle No More movement in Canada might help Natives in the U.S. start a national movement here, bringing unprecedented attention to indigenous causes. And 3. if the Redskins actually do start doing well during the next NFL season, more and more Americans will be exposed to hearing and seeing their offensive name more frequently, and attention to the issue could build to a breaking point.

Again, as I mentioned last October, the saddest irony about the Redskins is that the majority of their many die-hard fans are African Americans. These are two of the big themes in American history—whites turning different minorities against each other, and common people accepting racism into their everyday lives so wholeheartedly that they will fight tooth and nail to defend it.

Regardless of what happens, I do know this: Future Americans will look back with embarrassment on how long it took for this NFL team to change its name and mascot. It may not seem like an important issue to most people, but that's all the more reason it should have been taken care of long ago, and as long as I live in D.C., I will remain especially infuriated by the incredibly offensive moniker borne by a sports team many Washingtonians love.

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