Over the weekend, we addressed the long-simmering question of whether the Redskins should change their name. As we learned, it’s a fairly polarizing topic.
District of Columbia Mayor Vincent C. Gray apparently has come to the same conclusion. And so he’s now backpedaling faster than Darrell Green in the wake of comments Gray made last month suggesting that he wants the team to change its name.
“I would love to be able to sit down with the team . . . and see if a change should be made,” Gray originally said. “There’s a precedent for this, and I think there needs to be a dispassionate discussion about this, and do the right thing.”
When it comes to changing the name of an NFL team, dispassionate is impossible. And so Gray has since sung a different song to the Washington Post, explaining that he raised the topic because, if the Redskins were to move back to D.C., the likely site of a new stadium would be federal property. The team’s name, Gray reasons, could make it harder to get the federal government on board. (Since, you know, our federal government has such a long and storied history of treating Native Americans with dignity and respect.)
“The point I was trying to make at the time was . . . it’s sitting on federal land,” Gray said. “You know that issue will come up if that’s the proposal, to build the stadium there. That was the point I was making.”
Complicating the situation is that Gray avoided naming the team by its name during last week’s State of the District address. Gray attributes his decision to refer to the Redskins as the “Washington football team” to some resistance he has received from Redskins G.M. Bruce Allen.
“The first thing [Allen] says to me was, ‘So, you want to change the name, huh?’ So I said, ‘Bruce, can I explain to you exactly what happened?’ I just didn’t want to go through those explanations anymore,” Gray said. “So, they’re the ‘Washington football team.’”
Actually, if the explanation is that Gray has no trouble with the name and that he’s concerned only about whether the federal government will object if the team’s new stadium is built on federal property, why not keep calling them the Redskins?
The truth is that Gray surely has heard repeatedly from a constituency that not only has no problem with the name, but that also will defend it loudly — despite whatever flaws in logic or common sense or basic decency may exist in the argument to keep an inherently offensive name in place.
But, hey, a bunch of high schools still use the “Redskins” name, so that must make it OK for a professional football franchise assigned to the nation’s capital to do the same thing.