One of my NFL following buddies at work, who lived in the DC area for some time, asked me why I've begun using the name 'The Washington Taterskins'. My response to him was 'why not?' He shares my growing disdain for the team's current name, and its current owner. I did, however, feel like posting a longer answer here.
I made it through all of last season, predictions and 17 weeks of picks, without using the name Redskins. (Notice, I didn't have to worry about it once the playoffs came ...) I either simply refered to them as Washington, or called them The Lower Potomac Indigenous Persons of Particularly Ruddy Hue. Simply put, I'm tired of typing that. There can be no doubt at all that 'Redskins' is a racist and derogatory term, and it simply shouldn't be the name of a football team. Even the courts have agreed that it shouldn't be the name of a football team. It seems that the only people who disagree are avowed racists defending their 'right' to be racist, traditionalists who have sympathy for the great history of the franchise and Dan Snyder, the NFL's Worst.Owner.Period. The name was given to the team by George Marshall, a man who cannot be seen as anything other than a racist whose revulsion towards black players forced the intervention of the government. It remains unclear about his feelings towards Indigenous Americans. The only thing that is clear is that the term, the name, though a product of its time is clearly a denigration of a proud historic culture.
Nothing can be done about the racists. The traditionalists have a great affection for the history of such an old and storied franchise. I have deep sympathy for that because they should. Look at the Hall of Fame. Coaches George Allen and Joe Gibbs. Players like slingin' Sammy Baugh, Sonny Jurgenson, Sam Huff, John Riggins, Art Monk, Bobby Mitchell and Darrell Green. This is NFL history, powerful and moving. All of these men were Washington Redskins, and they always will be. That is their legacy, their history, who they were to us and who they will remain in the museum in Canton, Ohio. It's right there in bronze relief, Washington Redskins. No one is trying to erase that, or cheapen it or can even ignore it. No one is trying to re-write history by acknowledging that the history of the Redskins remains. That is the context of that horrible word. History.
Really, that is what this 'debate', if it is such a thing, boils down to. It's context. Context surrounding words. those more vociferous than I point out that 'we', whoever 'we are', wouldn't accept a team named 'The Niggers'. They are right. Did you flinch just a little when I actually wrote the word? That's context. The N word has fallen so out of favor that we almost fear its use, except for the racists who point out that blacks use it so they should be able to as well, a completely ignorant view of context. Forget the racists, they are a lost cause. It is a human super-power that we can take scratchy little symbols strung together, or sounds in cadence, and we turn them into contextual mind pictures. Those pictures can change over time and in context. And they certainly won't change for everybody at the same time or in the same way. It has taken a long time for Nigger to have the shock context to it. It might take a while for redskins to follow suit. But as we pretend to be rational mammals, we can't ignore that regardless of context, the objective meaning of those words is still pretty much the same. (Yes, I know that this is written for white folk by a white guy and I can't know the context of 'the others' feelings. If you can give me the experiences of growing up black or being raised on a reservation, kindly do so. You can't? Didn't think so. So let's run with what we have, okay?)
What we have in today's context is an NFL football team who's name is an offense. So, it seems clear to me that we shouldn't be using it, now, in the world as we know it. Changing the name of Washington's football team won't change it's history, but will put that history in proper context. That was then, this is now. If anything, it should make us more comfortable knowing that 'Redskins' is a museum piece, like the Confederate flag or the placards that festoon the slaughter of Native peoples. It won't change the history, but it will provide context so that most won't shudder away from an open secret when Redskins finally becomes as reviled a word as some others, and others still that should make us cringe. Which brings us to Dan Snyder.
I have a very good friend and my football watching BFF. His favorite teams are the Dallas Cowboys and anyone who beats Philadelphia, Washington or the New York Football Giants. He is a traditionalist and seems uncomfortable with my derision towards the name of DC's team. However, he has suggested two things I simply can't argue with. Dan Snyder, asshole that he is, won't give up the name because others want him to (megalomania much?), and that the 'Skins should change to the Warriors. That's not a bad name, and wouldn't even require a logo change. Washington sure doesn't have anything like 'Chief Wahoo'. It would celebrate the heritage of Native peoples, as they valued their warriors and the logo image is the same as on our legacy money. But Snyder has dug his heels in and will appeal his rights to a racist name all the way to the SCOTUS. Foolish. Stupid. Wrong. So, he needs to be shamed. Fine, I say. The Washington football team will be red of skin in my parlance. It's just a potato. They will, throughout the season, be the Washington Taterskins.