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D.C. mayor backpedals on Redskins name change

Gray Getty Images

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.

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54 Responses to “D.C. mayor backpedals on Redskins name change”
  1. cosanostra71 says: Feb 11, 2013 8:50 AM

    The media are pretty much the only ones who care about this.

  2. steeelfann says: Feb 11, 2013 8:54 AM

    Problem with many liberal politicians is that the only thing they have run……is their mouth.

  3. FinFan68 says: Feb 11, 2013 9:10 AM

    The word is not offensive. The meaning behind its use and the context in this circumstance are far from a pejorative intent. If you are offended, then you are assigning your own meaning to it and are actually offended by your own ideas of what it means. The Redskins use of the name and logo are a source of pride, honor, and respect.

  4. giantsfanlewis says: Feb 11, 2013 9:12 AM

    But hey, high school journalists make the same asenina articles, so I guess its okay if a national sports news site does the same right? Why is this so important to you? Are you native American? Were you wronged in one way or another? Next the browns will have to be called the cleveland African Americans and the giants will be the genetically taller people. This is just insane

  5. johnnyoclock says: Feb 11, 2013 9:17 AM

    Has anyone ever offered up a decent explanation why it’s offensive? You always hear it is, but there’s never any actual logical explanation. It’s the trend of the rent-a-riot, to believe something just because you’re told to believe it, to be angry because it feeds your ego.

    That’s all that’s going on here, yet another individual who needs to put others down to build themselves up. You can’t be a hero until you insist there’s a victim. And they’ll tell people they are victims until they finally give in. That’s all it’s about. another out of control ego here.

  6. dwoofer says: Feb 11, 2013 9:25 AM

    Funny how the rules of political correctness and racism apply to everyone in the country except Washington, DC. This is obviously racist. Just try going on TV and telling the Indians in Oklahoma or Arizona you want to say something to the “Redskins” there, and see what Washington, DC and the media do to you.

  7. yeahyeahyeahbono14 says: Feb 11, 2013 9:26 AM

    This is a non-issue being made into an issue for the sake of attention. Beat that drum– oh wait, that sounds racist because Native Americans do that!

    Puh-leeeeeze.

  8. romosmicrodongs says: Feb 11, 2013 9:26 AM

    I wonder if florio thinks he is morally superior for ‘standing up for those who won’t stand up for themselves’

    also pft is lame. stop censoring and silencing people.

  9. bearsfan4life says: Feb 11, 2013 9:28 AM

    I think the D.C. Tyrants has a nice ring to it.

    The logo could be a boot crushing a human head?

    The boot would be blue on the left side of the helmet and red on the right side so there could be no mistaking the intent.

  10. dlionfan says: Feb 11, 2013 9:28 AM

    costanostra71 actually the media are not the only ones who care about this issue. several native american groups have asked washington to change their name because it is offensive & you would not see this insult being shown to any other race without the public being upset.

  11. ratay1 says: Feb 11, 2013 9:32 AM

    “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.”

    …not so much that “a bunch” of high schools use the name, it’s more that at least one is on a Native American reservation and chooses to call itself “Redskins.”

    If those folks aren’t offended, how can anyone else be?

  12. rgtre10 says: Feb 11, 2013 9:36 AM

    Politicians are so full of it…leave it alone already, how many times have we been down this road? Just another politically correct movement which has no basis.

  13. footballfan12345 says: Feb 11, 2013 9:39 AM

    This has been an issue for years. NFL owners only see the revenue from the brand as the problem. Media and people can talk race and politics all they want. If they want change will have to force it – owners will never change unless it would mean more money.

  14. theredbengal says: Feb 11, 2013 9:43 AM

    Ugh, more of this PC garbage. Here’s how you solve this issue: go and poll the Native Americans and see what % of them are offended by the name.

    I guarantee you, the unanimous majority won’t care, or at least will like the name because it references their heritage.

    We have more important things to worry about, like being 16+ trillion in the hole

  15. hooterdawg says: Feb 11, 2013 9:46 AM

    That ‘Washington team’ is heavily invested in the Redskins brand. Think of all the memorabilia and tradition that goes back to the Boston roots of this team. The name is no where near as disrespectful as the gesture and stadium war cry associated with the Tomahawk Chop of several teams.

  16. footballfan12345 says: Feb 11, 2013 9:47 AM

    And the mayor is correct about federal land. The ACLU had a war memorial put up by native americans who served in WW2 be taken down because it was on federal land. Right or wrong ?

  17. vablockaderunner says: Feb 11, 2013 9:53 AM

    Uh oh, what about all the “momentum” for a name change Florio just declared existed?

    You mean millions of people who are cool with the name . . . those people actually matter?

    I thought crooked mayors with 12% approval ratings and self-righteous newspaper columnists with cancelled radio shows (yes Mike Wise, I’m looking at you) were supposed to make all our decisions for us.

  18. replacementwriter says: Feb 11, 2013 10:04 AM

    Anyone who has actually met a Native American can tell you they don’t actually have red skin. Red skin is a reference to war paint so it is unlikely you would see women, children, or cowards with red skin war paint on. It’s offensive that some of you people actually think this is a reference to their natural skin color.

  19. dynast77 says: Feb 11, 2013 10:06 AM

    Why didn’t the NY Jets change their name after September 11th?

  20. jojopuppyfish says: Feb 11, 2013 10:09 AM

    They should change the name to the PG County Redskins….that will shut up the mayor

  21. footballfan12345 says: Feb 11, 2013 10:12 AM

    I am sure when the team was named the redskins back in the 30′s (60 years after Little Big Horn) it was out of respect and admiration, or as other post suggest, courage and honor.

    What the term means:
    When there was a bounty on the heads of the Indian people, the trappers would bring in Indian scalps along with the other skins that they had managed to trap or shoot. These scalps brought varying prices, as did the skins of the animals. The trappers would tell the trading post owner that he had 2 bearskins, a couple of beaver skins… and a few scalps. Well, the term “scalp” offended the good Christian women of the community and they asked that another term be found to describe these things. So, the trappers and hunters began using the term “redskin”

  22. jjackwagon says: Feb 11, 2013 10:13 AM

    There is such a thing as a redskin potato. So named because it has a red skin. I think the team should just keep the name and change the emblem on the helmet to a potato. OHHHH the marketing possiblities are endless!!!!
    Then they could sell potato-heads and when someone gets hit the announcers could talk about mashed potatoes and everything!!!
    The only problem would be the Potato Anti-defamation League might get offended.

  23. footballfan12345 says: Feb 11, 2013 10:13 AM

    Did not know this until today

  24. rujusten says: Feb 11, 2013 10:13 AM

    This is an absolute joke. This was taken up to a Federal Appeals court and was struck down. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected taking the case and issued a one line statement honoring the Appeals Court decision. Get the **** over it! Florio and Mike Wise (DC columnist) are trying to be mavericks in getting the name changed…while you’re at it, get the Fighting Irish name changed too – I’m offended by the short, drunk leprechaun with his dukes up!

    BTW, Mike Wise had a sports talk show here in DC where he would bring this issue up all the time….2.5 years later, his show was canned!

  25. rujusten says: Feb 11, 2013 10:15 AM

    Oh yeah, and Vincent Grey needs to be worrying about what federal tax evasion charges he’s going against…not what the federal govt is going to think if the Redskins build a stadium on fed property

  26. rtant2013 says: Feb 11, 2013 10:17 AM

    I really don’t see how its offensive, even on here several Native Americans have remarked that it isn’t offensive to them and they actually like it because it helps their culture live on. But I don’t buy the “getting federal land” excuse, the only thing the federal government cares about is money, and if they took away the Redskins, they know they will lose a portion of fans, because that 80 year history of the Redskins is gone. No way you can change one of the longest running franchises.

  27. zappaisgod says: Feb 11, 2013 10:18 AM

    Glad to see the censors are still here, Florio you puke! Was it the Washington White Devils or that white people are evil and smell too that did it.

    Cowards

  28. floriohatesthebengals says: Feb 11, 2013 10:28 AM

    Their name should be the pelicans

  29. colts01 says: Feb 11, 2013 10:29 AM

    We live in an age where nobody is happy unless they are contesting something. You can’t make everyone happy unfortunately and the Redskins are a mascott that is supposed to be the pride of a team so why the big huff about this? It’s not used in a racist way at all it’s being used as a symbol of strength and toughness to identify the team. There is tradition behind it and many great players who are proud to be part of the Redskins franchise. Freedom of speech is an amendment right and Redskins to me is not racist. The native americans long ago lived in tribes, as many still do around the world, and outside and had sunburns and the term was used in the 1500′s to identify them as were all cultures in some ways. We all need to accept that we are black, white, red, yellow,pink (most white people are really pink toned), brown and aliens are gray and green! It’s only racist if you are trying to hurt someone or humiliate them. I don’t think trying to build a “team” to symbolize toughness, strength and World Champions is racist if the mascot symbolizes that and is perceived in a positive way that people look up too, cheer for and are proud of. Why can’t we all just be proud of who we are and accept each others differences which is what makes the United States who we are?

  30. batfreight says: Feb 11, 2013 10:38 AM

    There is no constitutional right to “not be offended”. If the name bothers you, get over it. PC nonsense is turning us into a nation of whining nitwits …SMH

  31. tonyromohaschildbearinghips says: Feb 11, 2013 10:40 AM

    It’s only a matter of time, just like gay marriage. It is the equivalent of the “N-Word.” think about things from a viewpoint other than your fat mayonnaise covered faces. being ignorant is something out country needs to get away from.
    Coming from a conservative.

  32. paredskinwarrior1985 says: Feb 11, 2013 10:49 AM

    one day it will be changed to warriors since Snyder already has it trademarked!!!

    The Washington Warriors is not a racial slur so they could keep every thing else

  33. eryeal says: Feb 11, 2013 10:54 AM

    I still say the name should be changed to the Washington Americans. This accomplishes many things:

    1. Most importantly, it pisses off the Cowboys because they would get in a hissy fit because they are “America’s Team”.

    2. They keep the helmet and logos – nothing changes. In changing the name to the Americans, it still references the FIRST Americans by keeping the logos and meaning the same. Thus implying great respect to the Native Americans.

  34. siriusred67 says: Feb 11, 2013 11:01 AM

    After the Newark Tornadoes folded, the team was moved to Boston where the owner renamed them “Redskins” to go with the baseball team, the Boston Braves. Weren’t both nicknames a reference back to the Boston Tea Party, one of the most famous events in the American Revolution? Alas, as both the Braves and Redskins have moved away from Boston, the nickname has lost meaning. At least it isn’t like wondering why anybody would think of Utah as a place for jazz music.

  35. fwippel says: Feb 11, 2013 11:07 AM

    Much ado about nothing. Anyone who has time to be offended by the name “Redskins” should be thankful they have time to be worried about such trivial matters.

    Times are bad, the economy continues to get worse, families are struggling with higher taxes, and we’re supposed to take time to be concerned about someone being offended by a mascot name? Uh, no.

  36. steelgrave says: Feb 11, 2013 11:16 AM

    Why don’t you keep your nose out of the politics and political correctness, Florio, and get back to concentrating on football? I come here because this site knows football and is a great place to pick up breaking stories and insider news. I am sick of “celebrities”, athletes and otherwise “famous” people pushing their inevitably politically correct viewpoints on everyone. I could care less what you think of the name Redskins. Get back to reporting on the team, not the politics.

  37. fballguy says: Feb 11, 2013 11:18 AM

    Here’s an idea. How about we all just suck it up a bit and focus on real issues.

  38. mack2x says: Feb 11, 2013 11:19 AM

    Not a major issue for me either way. But I have come to the conclusion that I liked this site so much better when Florio was considered just a smartass internet hack.

  39. thejuddstir says: Feb 11, 2013 11:26 AM

    Why is that we have become a nation of “whiners” with soft skin but yet expect government to be responsible for ending all evil and objectionable issues. To be offended by the use of Redskins or N. Dakota Fighting Sious, etc. is pure childish. I am sure there were many “Cowboys” who gave majority a bad rap, Fighting Illini…what connotation does that create, Tar Heels etc. Only people who are overly sensitive or have guilt complexs seem to make it an issue. I would bet there are less than 1% of the total population that think anything except “football” when they hear the term Redskins but we are no longer a society of what is best for the majority but for the few, the whiners and of course……the lawyers. Grow up anyone who has an issue because as a previous poster stated, it is is YOU who has the problem because you are “assigning your own meaning to it and are actually offended by your own ideas of what it means.”

  40. b3nz0z says: Feb 11, 2013 12:21 PM

    i love when people say “it is NOT offensive!” about something. sure, i get that YOU aren’t offended.
    if you want to argue that it’s ok to use a racial slur as a team name, go ahead and try to make that argument. but when you claim that it isn’t a racial slur you sound absolutely ridiculous.

  41. JMART11 says: Feb 11, 2013 12:27 PM

    Why are some people offended by this name? Because its stupid. Why is the team in 2013 still named based on an incorrect, outdated, simplistic, dumb reference to the skin color of Native Americans? Why can’t we use a name that has a more positive connotation? To me this is no different than calling a team from San Francisco the Yellow Skins with a picture of an Asian on the helmet.

    Now I do agree that this MY OPINION, unlike many of you who insist you are right and anyone disagreeing is wrong. There is no right or wrong; if people are offended, then the name is offensive…to them.

    If polls find only a small minority are offended then the name shouldn’t change. The team should continue to monitor how many are offended and which way the trend is moving.

  42. giablommi says: Feb 11, 2013 12:33 PM

    “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.”
    ^^^^^
    I love how bloggers like you feel the need to grandstand and fight these political battles because YOU are offended on someone else’s behalf. Yet in your political commentary on this issue the last few days, all you’ve done is posit that Native Americans are offended by this name based on vague generalities without a hint of irony.

    Here’s an idea: go out and interview some Native Americans, put a name and a face to your alleged opposition, and get back to us. THAT will actually carry some credibility. Otherwise, quit the political grandstanding and hackery.

    By the way, why don’t you reference the controversy over the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, a longstanding name intended to honor the indigenous peoples of North Dakota, supported by the Sioux tribes themselves, which went away because the NCAA put a gun to the state’s head and said no further postseason games/tournaments would be held in the state unless the name was changed. Still waiting for the outrage from Irish folks about Notre Dame’s team name, but I’d venture to guess you sickening PC police will eventually get around that one too, yes?

  43. abninf says: Feb 11, 2013 12:35 PM

    Florio. The same clown who bashed Charles Tillman for saying he might miss a regular season game for the birth of his child.

  44. giablommi says: Feb 11, 2013 12:41 PM

    Also, not for nothing but every sports team nickname that I can think of that’s been changed in under the guise of political correctness has been rightly mocked, scorned and given the negative reaction that such limp-wristed, spineless decisions deserved- not hailed as some righteous reversing of past wrongs that you imply.

    Does anyone think more highly of the Washington Bullets because they’re now the “Wizards”? Marquette University because they’re now the “Golden Eagles” instead of the “Warriors”? Dartmouth because they’re the “Big Green” instead of the “Indians”? St. John’s University because they’re the “Red Storm” instead of the “Redmen”? What the heII is a Big Green or a Red Storm anyway?

    Do you have any suggestions for that the team- you-hope-is-formerly-known-as-the-Redskins should be named? You sure have the pompous, elitist attitude that you are wiser and better informed than the “unwashed masses”, so let’s hear it…

  45. houstonoilers says: Feb 11, 2013 12:49 PM

    To be honest when I hear “Redskins” the first thing I think of is a football team not native americans.

  46. jwreck says: Feb 11, 2013 12:53 PM

    footballfan12345 says: Feb 11, 2013 10:12 AM
    What the term means:
    When there was a bounty on the heads of the Indian people, the trappers would bring in Indian scalps… So, the trappers and hunters began using the term “redskin”
    ________
    replacementwriter says: Feb 11, 2013 10:04 AM

    Anyone who has actually met a Native American can tell you they don’t actually have red skin.
    _______
    footballfan- that is 100% fictitious.
    replacement- just mostly wrong.

    Obviously Native Americans do not have “Red” skin, but there are differences in skin tone which would have looked strange and different to Northern European colonists and immigrants. Therefore the term “Redskin” is a reference to skin color, but not the actual color of skin so much as a difference in skin color compared to Northern Europeans.

    So Native Americans do have “red skin”, but only in the sense that Asians have “yellow skin”, and Italians and Greeks have “olive green skin” and people of African descent have “black skin”.

  47. shlort says: Feb 11, 2013 12:55 PM

    Give it up already, Mike.

    The Native American community isnt all “up in arms” over the name. As someone posted on a previous article, a poll was taken some years back and 90% of Natives polled were fine with the name. That means most of them do not care or dont find it offensive.

    Seeing as we live in a country where the majority is supposed to rule, why are we constantly seeing articles meant to sway peoples opinions toward the minority point of view? Is it because you dont like it? Well, too bad. I dont like peas, but you dont hear me complaing about other people eating them.

  48. Panda Claus says: Feb 11, 2013 1:08 PM

    …and the dead horse beatings will continue, whether we like it or not.

    An agenda is an agenda, and when the football season is over, sometimes agendas have to be pushed to keep fans interested, whether they like it or not.

  49. msaphir says: Feb 11, 2013 1:37 PM

    This is really only an issue to those who haven’t been paying attention over the years. ALL of the native American tribes in the DC area (Mattaponi, Pamunkey, Cherokee-what’s left) have said they are honored for the Washington team to be named “Redskins”–they are not offended at all. The last serious challenge to the name “Redskins” was spearheaded by an Italian-American lawyer with a bad case of political correctness–this is when Chief Custalow of the Mattaponi asked, “What’s this guy’s problem, he isn’t even a native American?”

  50. light2dml says: Feb 11, 2013 3:17 PM

    As an american indian, I’m pround to have the football team name “Redskins”, this has been my team since I was 13 years old and am now 47, would not like it to be changed to any other name.

    Just because there are a few natives who think this is politically incorrect, I think there are more who believe it should not be changed.

  51. macwomack says: Feb 11, 2013 5:54 PM

    I like that Florio has taken a position on an issue — unfortunately it is undermined by his censorship of the posts he disagrees with in substance.

    This exposes him as a weak debater — no wonder he couldn’t make a living as a litigator.

  52. 1standinches says: Feb 11, 2013 6:08 PM

    I think Packers are offensive to the gay community. (Sarcasm)

  53. macwomack says: Feb 11, 2013 7:33 PM

    So Ranchers and Miners benefit (and lobbied for) from the forced relocation of various tribes and the names that “honor” these types of people are not somehow offensive?

  54. ruleof2 says: Feb 15, 2013 3:19 PM

    I don’t understand how anyone finds the name REDSKINS offensive. Was it ever used as a derogatory reference? It simply refers to the very real fact that Native Americans have a warmer pigment to their skin tone. It was an obvious physical feature that stood-out to the first European settlers. As a white male, I look at it like this. If the NFL created a new team called the “Pale Faces” and adorned their helmets with the profile of a Mayflower Pilgrim, would that piss me off? NO, because just like “redskin”, “pale-face” was a simple term used by Native Americans to reference the most obvious feature of the white settlers. What’s the big deal? The name REDSKINS is one of pride for the team, the city and the Native American people. The logo honors them by using the strong profile of a proud Native American warrior. As a child growing up in a DC native family surrounded by REDSKINS decor, NOT ONCE did I look at that logo and feel anything but pride. In fact, it lead me to take an interest in the Native American people and as I learned about them, I developed a strong respect for their rich history and spiritual beliefs.

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