In a courtroom, it’s called “opening the door.” It happens when an otherwise irrelevant issue is brought up by one lawyer, who then objects when the other lawyer delves in to the same topic.
The Washington Redskins opened the door earlier this year by pointing to the many high schools that still use the same name for their sports teams. Now, when any high school abandons the name, it’s news.
News arose in Washington state on Monday, when the Port Townsend School Board decided to drop Redskins as the official nickname for Port Townsend High School. The name had been in place since 1926, seven years before the NFL team assumed it.
“No one believes the Redskins name and symbol are intentionally hurtful or disrespectful toward Native Americans,” School Board member Ann Burkhart said, via the Peninsula Daily News. “But I fail to see how a symbol, even a revered symbol, that is generally acknowledged to be divisive can be helpful in preparing students for success in the increasingly connected and collaborative 21st Century.”
It was a controversial decision, obviously. Per the report, 275 people attended the meeting, cheering those who spoke in favor of keeping the name and booing those who argued for change.
The effort began in June 2012, when Port Townsend resident Andrew Sheldon wrote a letter to the School Board explaining that he is “offended, embarrassed and ashamed by our school mascot.”
Opponents of the change included John Stroeder, a graduate who later played for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
“If you change the name, I’m done here,” Stroeder said. “I will take my jersey out of the [trophy] cabinet. I’m very passionate about this, and I’m not passionate about a lot of things.”
Said Sheldon of Stoeder: “He was a professional athlete and should be setting a better example for the kids. This is all about the kids and their education, which can’t happen while there is a racist symbol representing the team.”
The news comes at a time when a Washington Post poll indicates that eight of 10 Redskins fans in D.C. believe the name should not be changed. That’s not a surprise; for fans of the team, the name has only one meaning, and the connotation is only positive.