Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has called his shot. Within three years, Reid believes, the Washington Redskins will change their name.
Reid’s prediction, made by phone to the Washington Post, comes after the team launched the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.” Reid dismisses the move as “a phony deal, like everything [owner Daniel Snyder has] done.”
“Dan Snyder, he’s got a great new deal,” Reid told the Post. “He’s going to throw a few blankets to the Indians and get a tax deduction for it. I can’t imagine why the man doesn’t realize that the name is going to change. It’s only a question of when it’s going to change. That’s the only question. . . .
“And Snyder has to realize, he is on the losing side of history. And the sooner he does it, the better off we are. The Wizards, you know, they were the Washington Bullets. With all the killing that took place, the murders in Washington, Abe Pollin — a very nice man — decided ‘I don’t need any of this.’ So they changed it to the Washington Wizards. We’re all used to the Washington Wizards. And I don’t know what [the Redskins will] change the name to, but we’ll get used to it really quick.”
That’s where Reid is wrong. The issue has become too polarized in the past year to make the proponents of the name move on. While the name inevitably will change at some point in the next 50 years, the debate over whether the name should change back will rage for up to 50 more.
For the NFL, the question becomes whether the league wants one of its 32 franchises to have a name that invites constant scrutiny on the question of whether it is offensive. On one hand, it’s another subplot for the ultimate reality show. On the other hand, it’s the kind of thing that could help Mark Cuban’s cockeyed vision of an eventual pro football implosion come to fruition, if/when the league is ignoring what eventually will become a majority of American voices calling for the name to change.
That’s the latest date on which the change will happen — when it’s clear that most Americans agree that the passage time has made the use of the word “Redskins” unacceptable in any context, regardless of historical use, honorable intentions, or charitable contributions. It could happen before then; it won’t happen much long after.