Things have gotten so bad in Washington that the ongoing debate regarding the team’s name arguably represents not an unwanted annoyance but a welcome diversion from current football-related controversies.
On Thursday, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights voted unanimously to urge the owner of the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name.
“This is not someone else’s problem, this is everyone’s problem,” said Wade Henderson, CEO of the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 diverse national organizations. “Having an offensive slur for the Washington team name teaches young people to celebrate the denigration of people for being who they are. That has a damaging psychic impact on individuals, as well as on the entire nation. Changing the name is the right thing do, regardless of how comfortable fans have become with it. And when Mr. Snyder does decide to put the slur away, I think he’ll discover a new market of consumers who recognize the dignity of all people and want to honor that with the sports teams they support.”
The team, which has remained largely (but not completely) silent in response to the persistent calls for change, has issued a statement in response to the resolution.
“The Washington Redskins hold these civil rights leaders in high regard, but we respectfully believe they are mischaracterizing decades of honor and respect toward America’s Indian heritage that our name represents for generations of Redskin fans and Native Americans alike,” the team said. “We understand these leaders hold their views deeply, but so do hundreds and hundreds of Native Americans who have written to us expressing an opposite point of view. . . .
“We believe it is important to listen to and respect all sides on this issue, and that includes also listening to and learning from Native Americans and countless Redskin fans who, for generations, believe our name represents the strength, character and pride of our Indian heritage.”
In other words, the team’s current position is that the issue falls squarely within the realm of subjects on which reasonable minds may differ. Some people reasonably find the term offensive. Others reasonably find the term not offensive. And while the team will listen to those who find the name offensive, the team won’t change the name as long as sufficient Native Americans and Redskins fans are not actually offended.
So, basically, the team won’t change the name unless and until a unanimous consensus emerges that the name is offensive. And that likely won’t happen any time soon.