Two pantheons of sports journalism, Slate and Mother Jones, took the bold move this week of announcing that they would no longer refer to the National Football League team that plays in Washington, D.C., as the “Redskins.”
The move was both silly and self-serving, because . . . well . . .
Yeah, they’re the first places I go when I want to bone up on my football.
But there’s one other thing worth mentioning here . . .
They were right.
So it’s time to press for a few other outlets – more important outlets – to take the same bold step. Are you listening, ESPN? Can you hear me, Sports Illustrated? Do I have your attention yet, NBC and Fox and CBS and ABC? How about it, Washington Post?
Listen up, guys . . . History be damned, it’s time to abandon what is, in fact, a horribly racist name.
On March 13, 1994, The New York Times published an op-ed piece by Tim Giago, the founder of the Lakota Times, the first independently owned Native American newspaper in the U.S.
It was a wonderful, eye-opening op-ed . . . so much so that I stashed a photocopy in my briefcase. Nineteen years later, it’s still there.
Sadly, I can’t find it on the Times website, which is a shame because the link really should go to the original.
But Illinois Sen. Paul Simon found it as moving as I did, and he entered it into the Congressional Record, which appears to be pretty much the only place you can read it now. So read it:
“Redskins” is a word that should remind every American there was a time in our history when America paid bounties for human beings. There was a going rate for the scalps or hides of Indian men, women and children. These “redskins” trophies could be sold to most frontier trading posts. Along with coon skins, beaver skins and bear skins, the selling of “redskins” was also profitable.
On a recent radio talk show, I spoke with a young lady who had been a cheerleader for a team called the “Indians.” She said, “When I put on my feathers and war paint, donned my buckskins and beads, I felt I was honoring Indians.” I asked her, “If your team was called the African-Americans and you painted your face black, put on an Afro wig and donned a dashiki and then danced around singing songs and making noises you thought to be African, would you be honoring blacks?” Her answer was “No! Of course not! That would be insulting to them.” End of discussion.
That’s just a snippet. Read the whole piece. It speaks volumes, and it’s why I’ve been carrying that faded photocopy around for 19 years.
The key question Giago raised, which was brought up again this week, is:
If you were naming a team today, would you name it the Redskins?
If your answer is no, how can you tolerate keeping the name?
If your answer is yes, how would you feel about the Berlin Maccabees? The Birmingham Negroes?
This isn’t political correctness. It’s just correctness. It shouldn’t be so hard to do the right thing.
Change the damn name. Just do it. It’ll be OK.