The debate regarding the name of the football team owned by Daniel Snyder has strengthened over the last two years because the employees of the football team owned by Daniel Snyder have legitimized and encouraged the opposition through P.R. tactics aimed at ultimately shouting down anyone who would disagree.
Now, Snyder himself has breathed extra life into an otherwise simmering controversy with multiple public comments this week. The first wave came when he was interviewed by an employee of a radio station Snyder owns. The next came in an interview with ESPN’s Outside the Lines.
“A Redskin is a football player,” Snyder explained. “A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride. Hopefully winning. And it’s a positive. Taken out of context, you can take things out of context all over the place. But in this particular case, it is what it is. It’s very obvious.”
What’s also obvious is that when the word is stripped away from the football team, it becomes offensive in the eyes of many — including those charged with the responsibility of writing dictionaries. It’s also obvious that Snyder’s narrow focus would justify any team name based on a word that otherwise would be regarded as being offensive.
Think of any potentially offensive term. And then fill in the blanks with it.
“A ______ is a football player,” Snyder explained. “A ______ is our fans. The ______ fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride.”
Snyder also risks legitimizing a major portion of the current opposition to the name by reiterating the notion that Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, former president of the National Congress of American Indians, helped design and approve the team’s logo. If Wetzel’s role as president of the National Congress of American Indians operated as a seal of approval for the logo when the logo was adopted, the current wishes of the National Congress of American Indians also should be respected. And the National Congress of American Indians has made its views clear.
As conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer explained it last year, language changes and evolves over time. Words that would have been acceptable if placed in the above blanks 40, 50, or 60 years ago have, over time, become words that aren’t considered to be appropriate for normal use. Pointing that out isn’t an attack on Snyder or the team or its fans or an effort to get clicks. It’s an attempt to have a frank, honest discussion about the word, about whether the word can be separated from its normal meaning when applied to a football team, and about whether the people to whom the word refers have a problem with a team carrying that word as its name.
Which leads back to the best point that has been made about the situation: There’s no way the name could be applied to an expansion team.