With our world becoming increasingly progressive, the sports realm is starting to finally get a dose of political correctness, and rightfully so. Recently, the Washington Redskins, D.C.’s NFL team, for those not athletically knowledgeable, has come under a lot of controversy for their admittedly racist name.
Although the name has been criticized for a long time, President Obama’s recent remarks about the name reignited the controversy, causing several influential voices to come out of the woodwork. In a rare comment on sports, Obama said, “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 — was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
The Redskins owner, Dan Snyder recently vowed to keep the name, calling it a “badge of honor,” however NBC sports reporter, Bob Costas offered a nuanced and harsh response to Snyder. Costas, known as one of the most influential men in sports said, “Redskins can’t possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent.”
While voices such as the President and Costas are influential and are helping to move the discussion forward, the most important voice that must be listened to is that of the Native American peoples who are being disgraced and upset by the name.
In the beginning of October, the Oneida Indian Nation held a conference to promote their “Change the Mascot” campaign and the National Football League seemed prepared to meet with them, however the meeting is yet to happen. Though, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, changing the Redskins name is not on the agenda.
While many Americans have said that the name does not personally offend them, that is not for non-Native American people to decide. We have to listen to the group who is being oppressed or offended by the term that directly correlates to.
Sports are a hugely influential factor on American culture, often turning perfectly nice people into frothing, screaming and sometimes violent monsters (look at the recent Dodger vs. Giants stabbing). There have also been other cases of intense racism, when fans of the Cleveland Indians followed the lead of the wildly racist mascot and came to games in “red face.” Red face is a practice skin to “black face” which demeans and dehumanizes people of color.
In order to bring sports up-to-date and make it more equal for all, the NFL needs to look closely at the names and mascots they use.