In one corner, we have the defenders of the Redskins name. Their approach has included shouting down those who question the name, offering up arguments ranging from illogical to disingenuous, and/or trotting out a parade of horribles that eventually would result in every nickname based on a type of human or other species being eradicated from sports.
In the other corner, we have those who realize that the time has come for a word that could not be used in modern parlance to be removed from the roster of NFL team names.
And the two sides will remain entrenched until a solution is found. It’s hard to imagine any solution that entails the Redskins name remaining in place.
“This is not going away this time,” Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter said at Monday’s symposium in Washington, D.C., via Erik Brady of USA Today.
Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, has suggested perhaps the best alternative name I’ve heard to date: the Americans.
“The point is that it’s about context,” Gover said. “If you called them the Americans and had a contemporary Native image, that’s inclusive. That’s much different from singling us out and calling us by that name and having the image of a stereotypical Native American from the 19th Century, as though we’re not still around.”
More and more people connected to the game of football are expressing an opinion that the name should not still be around.
“The Redskins nickname is offensive to Native Americans,” former Buccaneers and Colts coach Tony Dungy said on Sunday’s Football Night in America. “In 2013 we need to get that name changed.”
A couple of weeks ago, someone asked Dungy in the NBC viewing room when the name should change.
“Fifteen years ago,” Dungy said.
Current ownership and management have shown no inclination to make the change, on any timetable. As Jay Glazer of FOX pointed out during the Sunday pregame shows (and as we’ve separately heard from multiple sources), General Manager Bruce Allen provided a lengthy defense of the name in a conference call held last week for the purposes of preparing for this week’s ownership meetings.
The effort to defend the name seems to be motivating and recruiting opponents. In the aftermath of Allen’s comments, for example, we’ve heard chatter that the reaction by some on the call was that the defense of the name was “absurd” and “insulting to the intelligence.”
The only position provided to date by owner Daniel Snyder — “NEVER, you can use caps” — was described with a different term on Monday.
“If someone in the classroom or the workplace tells you that something is offensive, and you say, like Dan Snyder said, in capital letters, ‘We will not change the name,’ that’s textbook harassment,” clinical psychologist Michael Friedman said during the D.C. symposium.
Regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong, the NFL now faces the reality that one of its 32 teams has a name that reasonable minds regard as offensive. With Commissioner Roger Goodell explaining that the league will listen to those who are offended and the league currently scheduled to meet with Oneida Nation to discuss the name, the opposition becomes even more reasonable, regardless of whether it’s objectively correct.
That’s the problem. As proponents and opponents engage in a red-state/blue-state debate over whether the name is offensive, the NFL now has as part of its reality a polarizing issue that, even for the ultimate reality show, brings a little too much reality to the table.
The seeds for this one were planted more than 20 years ago, when the first effort to challenge the team’s federal trademark rights to the term were launched. And as more people have had the occasion to stop and think about the plain meaning of the word, more people have come to the conclusion that the word should go.
With the league legitimizing those concerns by both acknowledging and engaging them, even more will come to the conclusion that the word should go.
Eventually, the word will go. The question at this point isn’t where the last domino will land, but how all the others in between will fall.