It was mentioned in today’s one-liners, but the topic demands an article of its own.
The NFL franchise assigned to Washington, D.C., has a name that is both racist and offensive. Most Americans have become desensitized to that fact. But it is a fact.
And the time has come for the name to change.
Last Friday, Mike Wise of the Washington Post pressed Commissioner Roger Goodell on the topic, during Goodell’s annual pre-Super Bowl press conference. (It’s often called the “State of the League” press conference, but at any given moment the “State of the League” can be summarized thusly: (1) we’re really rich; (2) we’re really popular; and (3) we do what we want.)
Goodell provided a non-answer that produced the faint sound of tap shoes. “I don’t think anybody wants to offend anybody,” Goodell ultimately said.
Nobody may want to offend anybody, but the name offends plenty. Even if few notice.
“I think when people say Redskins we hear cup or bedspread,” Wise said at a Thursday symposium conducted by the National Museum of the American Indian, via WUSA9.com. “The sound is the same, but when you go to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota that name is equivalent to the ‘N’ word.”
Wise, with whom we’ve disagreed a time or two in the past, is right on this one. It’s an offensive name. And we’re all numb to it.
Indeed, we’re now numb to the fact that, for more than a generation, efforts have been undertaken to try to change it. For many, it’s become a quaint footnote to America’s ultimate reality show. A small pocket of people are complaining, no action is being taken in response, and it’ll stay that way until the small pocket of complainers find something else about which to complain.
It shouldn’t. The name should change. And there’s likely only one way it will change, at any point in the next 10-15 years.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III needs to stand up and demand that it change.
Athletes who stay firmly in the middle of the road rarely are criticized for not taking a stand. Michael Jordan stayed out of political issues, because as he once reasoned, “Republicans buy shoes, too.” (Of course, there’s a chance Jordan never actually said that.)
But Griffin has a unique opportunity. There’s no real downside to requesting that the Redskins change their name. Few truly believe in their hearts the name isn’t offensive. Instead, fans of the team resist changing the name because, for them, the term taps directly into their football loyalties. With Griffin becoming the player to whom those loyalties most fervently now trace, he’s the only one who can make it happen.
Other than, of course, the owner of the team. But Daniel Snyder has shown no inclination to change the name during his 14 years of owning it — in large part because he has been for decades one of those fans who see “Redskins” not as a word that connotes hate, but as the representation of the NFL team he loves.
Here’s hoping Griffin does the right thing, since Griffin could be the only man to persuade Snyder to follow suit.
If Snyder won’t, perhaps at least 24 of his colleagues in ownership eventually will compel him to.