This won’t be a universally popular opinion, but the time for caring about making everyone happy and/or pissing off the fewest number of people has ended.
As the NFL and its teams look for a way to transform words into actions, a simple, easy, and clear path to change for professional football would come from an immediate change to the name of the Washington franchise.
The team that is named for the nation’s capital, at a time when the nation’s capital has become one of the flash points for protest, should acknowledge that the franchise’s nickname is a textbook racial slur, that it genuinely offends enough Native Americans to make the name unacceptable, and that it should change. If it wasn’t already obvious, it should be given the reaction to the franchise’s failed effort to embrace #BlackoutTuesday.
If not in this moment, when will the name ever change? When owner Daniel Snyder sells the team to someone else? When he can barter a new name for a new stadium? When the league inevitably tells Snyder or his successor to do the right thing, possibly in exchange for a draft or a Super Bowl?
In this critical time of turning mere language into meaningful action, this is the opportunity for Snyder to show strength, unity, and sensitivity by acknowledging that the word is outdated, that it is racist, and that it should be abandoned. While it applies to a different race than the race that currently is screaming for equality and justice, racism is racism. Unfair treatment is unfair treatment. Native Americans continue to be marginalized by a word that offends too many of them.
How many is too many? One Native American genuinely offended by the phrase is too many. And it’s far more than one Native American who objects to the term, despite the efforts of the franchise to mischaracterize inherently flawed polls and other devices aimed at creating an impression that it’s OK to use the name, that it’s only a problem if an overwhelming majority of Native Americans object, and that the opinions expressed by “woke” media members who are trying to give voice to the Native Americans who are offended by the word should be disregarded as “virtue signaling.”
Fans of the franchise, who have somehow found a way to convince themselves that “Redskins” means only a football team and nothing more, will continue to loudly object and deflect, clumsily arguing that a change to the team’s nickname will force other franchises to follow suit, given that “Giants” offends large people and “Saints” offends Catholics and whatever else they’ll argue in order to avoid the fundamental question of whether repeated and regular use of the term “Redskins” is acceptable, especially when America is being pushed (perhaps against its will) toward ending systemic racism against all minority classes.
Again, racism is racism — whether practiced against African-Americans or Native Americans or any group that isn’t part of the white majority. For far too long, Snyder and his predecessors have ignored the simply reality that “Redskins” isn’t a universal term of honor but, at the very best, a term on which Native Americans are conflicted. So as the NFL gropes for a way to turn its word salads of statements into something real and meaningful, nothing would be more real and more meaningful than finally admitting in a loud, clear, and unambiguous voice that the term “Redskins” is wrong, and that it will immediately be abandoned for another name.
If the organization does anything less than that, any of its word or actions aimed at ending racism should be regarded as hollow, incomplete, and insincere.