Joe Gibbs says opposition to the Washington Redskins’ name must be a new thing, because he never heard it when he was the team’s head coach.
Gibbs, the Hall of Famer who coached in Washington from 1981 to 1992 and again from 2004 to 2007, said that in his years with the team, he heard “Redskins” as a term that unified the community, not a term that gave offense or caused controversy.
“Never once did I hear anybody ever say anything negative about the name Redskins,” Gibbs told the Associated Press. “It was always prideful, it was courage involved. We have a song, ‘Hail to the Redskins,’ and so everything, everything about that name has been positive for me and my past.”
But just because Gibbs never heard anything negative, that doesn’t mean nothing negative was said about the name during Gibbs’s tenure as the head coach. In 1988, a group of Native Americans urged the Redskins to change their name. In 1992, more than 2,000 people attended a protest against the use of Native American team names and team mascots before Super Bowl XXVI.
Gibbs may not have heard the word “redskin” as a slur, but many Native Americans do hear it that way.