Editorial: The (fake) Redskins naming controversy

The whole Redskins naming controversy is a big fuss over nothing, an example of how the misguided actions of a few can rain on the parade of many.

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The perfect metaphor for the fake Redskins name controversy happened at the Toots and the Maytals concert last Saturday on Brown’s Island during Dominion River Rock. As thousands of people were enjoying the group’s performance, one lone asshole ruined the collective good time by hurling a bottle at the stage. The projectile landed on singer Toots Hibbert’s cranium causing an otherwise joyous musical event to end suddenly on the sourest of notes.

And that’s what this whole fuss about nothing is all about: how the misguided actions of a few can rain on the parade of many.

To those of you that haven’t been following this shallowest-end-of-the-pool news story, there has been feigned indignation in some quarters over the name of the Washington Redskins. To this tiniest handful, the name is a racial slur. While this contention has mostly no basis in fact, these self-appointed guardians of public decency still insist on making the argument that it does. And those of us that have no problem with the name of the privately owned professional football franchise are somehow ignorant to the unspeakable harm just saying the name “Redskins” causes. While I do find it funny whenever someone wants to label me a callous boob for pointing out the epic absurdity of their factually challenged assumptions, the argument speaks to a larger, more sinister truth that our world is increasingly becoming a sounding board for irrational chicken littles.

First, let’s hear what an actual “Redskin” thinks about the name.

Claiming “scalps” automatically means “red skins” is revisionist history, to be blunt. It was the Native Americans who first used the term “red” in order to differentiate between indigenous, white, and black people. When not referring to their individual and other tribes collectively, why would they use Indian, Native, or other adjectives to describe their obvious skin differences back then? Ives Goddard is a senior linguist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of History. Goddard wrote the book, I am a Redskin: The Adoption of a Native American Expression (1769-1826) and notes the earliest uses of “red skin” were in recorded statements from Natives by the French who generally traded amicably with them. The French were careful to denote the “red” distinction was made by Natives themselves.

By the time of the Phips Proclamation, according to Goddard, “red” to describe Natives was used “by both French and English…Although Europeans sometimes used such expressions among themselves, however, they remained aware of the fact that this was originally and particularly a Native American usage.” Also citing Goddard in the recent article, “Before The Redskins Were The Redskins: The Use Of Native American Team Names In The Formative Era of American Sports, 1857-1944,” Professor of Law and historian J. Gordon Hylton writes about the term, “…throughout the nineteenth century, the term was essentially neutral when used by whites, reflecting neither a particularly positive or particularly negative connotation.” Even Sitting Bull once remarked, “I am a red man. If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place.” Adrian Jawort, member of of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe

As we all know, our country was founded on the wholesale slaughter of these indigenous Americans. This undeniable fact–that our pale faced forefathers committed genocide against the red man–is the basis of the argument that the name is racist. While there’s no disputing this inconvenient truth of our nation’s bloody history, there’s no way to go back in time and right the wrongs of the past. More importantly, no one alive today participated in the slow evisceration of Native American culture. That’s the beauty of life: every 100 years or so, the planet is inhabited by all new people. And to hold present day Americans accountable for the actions of their 18th century ancestors is not only patently absurd, it is a diluted, revisionist attempt to whitewash our nation’s dirty laundry by somehow believing that now, nearly two centuries after the slaughter, we can help to make amends for this genocide by making a football team change their name.

Ted Nugent, the aging rocker that I rarely agree with, puts this displaced moral outrage in it’s proper perspective in his excellent article on the subject A Tomahawk Chop To Political Correctness:

If we want to focus on the plight of Native Americans, call me crazy horse, but maybe we should start by addressing issues that truly matter most and would actually save Indian’s lives.

The great white buffalo then goes on to state that the high school dropout rates, the rampant unemployment, alcoholism, and suicide rates that plague the modern day Native American community are the real issues that need to be addressed and not the names of sports franchises.

There are wafting smoke signals of real distress coming from the American Indian community that are being ignored. These are the life and death issues that actually matter, not pushing a brain-dead agenda to get sports teams to change their names. Political correctness doesn’t fix anything. The cult of denial that is political correctness masks what matters most, which is why I refer to it as a social cancer that should be eradicated.

Despite this, the fringe continues to disregard these real life issues and continues to pester the team to change their name even though the majority of the Americans have no problem with it. In a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, four in five Americans don’t think the team should change its name. Only 11 percent think it should be changed, while eight percent weren’t sure, and two percent didn’t answer. And as far as Native Americans are concerned, a poll conducted in 2004 by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (PDF) showed that they had even less of a problem with the name with 90% indicating it didn’t bother them in the slightest. So if we live in a true representative democracy, the majority has spoken. Case closed, right?

Of course not.

In March, Del. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) authored the Non-Disparagement of American Indians in Trademark Registrations Act of 2013, which would cancel all existing federal trademarks using “Redskins” to refer to Native Americans and prohibit future trademarks as well. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a longtime critic of the team’s name, is an original co-sponsor, along with Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.). Given the amount of real life problems facing our nation, shouldn’t our elected officials be spending their time working on solutions to our public ills and not badgering a private business to change their name to something more to their liking?

“It’s not up to the offending class to say what offends the offended” says American Indian advocate Susan Shown Harjo. Really? Seems to me, the country that we live in is based in part on the right to offend. And considering that only a tiny fraction of the culture considers the name to be an inflammatory term, there’s simply no basis in fact for her contention that somehow a whole class of people is being degraded because of a football team’s name. Just because someone claims something is offensive doesn’t mean that it actually is.

Like the bottle thrown at Toots Hibbert, these preposterous claims of racism are hurled at a beloved, privately owned sports franchise that brings joy to millions. Thankfully though, unlike that unfortunate incident on Brown’s Island, the despicable actions of this legislative minority will not stop the party.

Hail To The Redskins.

— ∮∮∮ —

Redskins Preseason Schedule 2013

Redskins vs. Titans • Thursday August 8th; 8:00 PM (NBC/Comcast)

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Redskins vs. Steelers • Monday August 19th; 8:00 PM (ESPN)

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Redskins vs. Bills • Saturday August 24th; 4:00 PM (NBC/Comcast)

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Redskins vs. Buccaneers • Thursday August 29th; 7:30 PM (NBC/Comcast)

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Home Redskins Electric Football Team by Electric Teams. Away “R” logo Redskins by J. Robinson. All other teams are the last edition 11-man sets issued by Miggle Toys.

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Chris Bopst

Chris Bopst believes that god is nothing more than the summation of us all. At least, that’s what the goose bumps tell him.

35 comments on Editorial: The (fake) Redskins naming controversy

  1. Hail to the Blackskins on said:

    The indignation is real, not feigned, and it’s felt by a lot of people of all backgrounds. Don’t polite people think twice about using “niggardly” in ordinary conversation, even though they know there’s no factual connection to the n-word?

    And isn’t this all about more than the term alone? I’ll always cheer against Washington as long as it has an Indian mascot, no matter what name it uses. Go Titans!

  2. JeffRaySpecs on said:

    Are Titans fans allowed to comment on football until they win a Super Bowl? My vote: NO. (Or are you an old Oilers fan? My guess is that you are too young to even know there was a team named the Oilers and think Earl Campbell is a country singer).

    Nicely researched and written, C-Bo!

  3. johnny davis on said:

    Excellent statement. People need to relax, take a deep breath, and realize its just a sport. Just a game. Its an HONOR not a racial slur. Hail to the REDSKINS!

  4. MeMeMe on said:

    I submitted the same stuff about Ives Goddard on a WaPo article comment. I love that when you debunk this “bottle throwing” crowds statements, they amend them.
    -”And isn’t this all about more than the term alone?”-
    No, it is all about the term. No one can prove one iota of intent to discriminate by the team, so this must, in fact, purely revolve around the term!

    I am a bald man. If someone refers to me as such, I am not offended. If someone calls me a dirty bald man, I am offended. Am I sensitive about my baldness? Sure. Am I the only bald man sensitive to being referred to as bald? No. So,is that a reason to ban the public use of the term?

  5. MarriedtoaNative on said:

    Holy hell, if I hear that bald statement/comment from one more bald man…

    So, I’m a curvy woman. I’ll never be a size 0. If someone were to refer to me as curvy, voluptious- hell even plus size I wouldn’t take offense-because those are truthful statements about my looks NOT MY RACE, NOT MY HERITAGE. If someone called me a Mick cause I’m part Irish or a Wop in reference to my Italian roots…I’d take offense becasuse those words a referencing my heritage, the nationalities that make up who I am. I cannot fathom why SO many white people feel the need to comment on/preach in favor of a name/racial slur that has absolutely nothing to do with them. I would say there are a fair amount of people in this country who have no problem using the word nigger and yet we don’t have a football team called the New York Niggers. And I dare say anyone who comments on this article/editorial much less the writer would be standing up for the use of that word or kike or wetback or any other racially formed derogatory words. If there are ANY Native Americans who take offense to the word Redskins (and I’m married to one who MOST CERTAINLY DOES) it should be removed. We can’t right the very many wrongs done to them when we “came over” but we can certainly stop perpetuating the belief that the word Redskin has no negative/deragatory connotation.

    Would Washington be a better or worse team if they were called the Washington Warlocks, War Machines (apropros for DC no?), Warpigs (they already have the Hoggetts or whatever those old dudes are called who dress up like pigs). I’ve heard people try to give a legitmate argument that Washington can’t change their names because when they play the Dallas Cowboys it just wouldn’t be the same. Are you kidding me?

    My father has been a life long Washington fan. He’s not a fan because they’re called the Redskins. My husband knows my Dad is not a racist. He also knows he will continue to be a fan. We, as a family, have decided to drop the R word and only refer to the team as Washington. My Dad made that suggestion out of respect for his Son-in-Law-a man who is part of a federally recognized tribe and holds strong to his Native American roots.

    It’s a shame that Daniel Snyder doesn’t have that same respect for Native Americans.

  6. JeffRaySpecs on said:

    I bet Thanksgiving–er, Murderous Thieve Gorging Day–is a real blast at your place. Somebody pass the maize-on-the-cob.

  7. BOPST on said:

    Ah yes, the “nigger” analogy. I knew some halfwit would throw out that card. Personally, as a fan of inflammatory rhetoric, I would love it if the team was called the niggers. Not only would it piss people off, it would begin the long process of transforming a once hateful racial epitaph into a beloved term of endearment. Problem is, where as “nigger” was a derogatory 20th century slur, the same can not be said about redskin. I know people keep insisting that redskin is one, but that is simply not true. As stated in the column, 90% of American Indians polled in 2004 had no problem with the team’s name and over 78% of people polled today feel the same. So riddle me this, kemosabe; how can a word be deemed offensive if an overwhelming majority of people don’t think that it is?

  8. TOT on said:

    The whole story was probably generated by Snyder to drive up sales for Redskin logo apparel

  9. BOPST on said:

    Probably? Snyder made his fortune in product placement…

  10. Mikemetic on said:

    Reading this type of argument is nothing new and it’s not surprising. White people in this country consistently fight tooth and nail to hold on to their racist traditions, particularly here in VA. The fact that there are in fact MANY Native Americans that ARE offended by the term should be reason enough to change it. If you think it’s a “fabricated argument” by Dan Snyder then you should watch this:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/redskins/2013/05/09/native-americans-washington-mascot-fight/2148877/

    But as usual, righteous indignation and white people telling the minority group “Oh, you’re so upset but it is so unfounded. I mean, I know what is offensive to you better than you do.” With the legacy as the most racist team in football (the last to integrate bc Jack kent Cooke was ADAMANTLY against it for a long time) it seems like Redskins fans would be ready to shake any controversy or perception of the team embellishing racist notions but it’s just more excuses and Redskin fans patting each others backs when they make “good arguments” about keeping a name that is offensive to many many people, even non-native Americans like myself. In the 1890s 90% of Black people would not have logged any complaints at being called a “nigger” either. You fans love it but it’s pretty sickening to a lot of the population including myself. The Governor of Maryland told Snyder he would have to change the name if they built their practice facility in Maryland so what does he do? Calls up Gov. McDonnell (and we KNOW how he rolls) and gets the “old boy” money pass to keep his tyranny of tradition rolling ahead full steam and build it in RVA instead. But alas, I do drive by a Robert E. Lee Monument everyday so I guess it’s the right place for them to be here since we have a tradition of canonizing unsavory types. Unfortunately, that is RVA all day…

  11. Austin on said:

    What a pile of idiotic, racist drivel.

  12. BOPST on said:

    The argument that the name is racist simply does not hold water. More importantly, the desperate need to frame it as such speaks to the epic disconnect between reality and fantasy. A person’s skin pigmentation has no value in this discussion as an overwhelming majority of people of all races, creeds and colors have no issue with the name. And while it is true that at the height of segregation the majority of people didn’t find fault with the state mandated separation of races, equating these two things is a classic case of wanting apples to be oranges. The analogy only works when there is a willful circumvention of fact.

    As referred to in the column above, in the book “Before The Redskins Were The Redskins: The Use Of Native American Team Names In The Formative Era of American Sports, 1857-1944,” Professor of Law and historian J. Gordon Hylton writes about the term, “…throughout the nineteenth century, the term was essentially neutral when used by whites, reflecting neither a particularly positive or particularly negative connotation.” Hell, Sitting Bull called himself a Redskin, 90% of polled Native Americans in 2004 had no issue with it and no one in this day and age uses the term as a racial slur. When it was first used centuries ago, “Redskin” was simply a statement of physical appearance without hateful racial connotation by pale faces. Today, “Redskin” is used by a vast majority of people as a term of endearment in line with the rich tradition of native Americans. While some want (and will continue to contest) this simple, well documented fact, they do so in direct denial of reality.

    Also lost in this discussion is the fact that the team is a private business. The idea that a privately owned business has to conform to the irrational will of a tiny fraction of the culture is in direct denial with how a democracy is supposed to work. You don’t like the name? Fine, but don’t expect a tax-paying, private business to change their name just because a few irrational chicken littles have their panties in a twist over it. Their name is simply not up for public discussion and they-a private business- can call themselves anything they want. If their name hurt their bottom line, you can rest assured that they would change it, but considering that the team is one of the most profitable franchises in professional sports, Snyder incorporated has no financial incentive to do so.

  13. Jecca on said:

    You don’t get to decide whether someone else has the “right” to be offended. Next.

  14. bopst on said:

    That is true, but I do have the right to call bullshit on bullshit.

  15. Josh on said:

    How about this article? http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9376010/rename-washington-redskins
    Talks about the asshole who actually named the team, among other things.

    “…if your team name only exists because there happened to have been a genocide, then it might be time to think up a new name”

  16. KidGraffiti on said:
  17. BOPST on said:

    I love the theory that Marshall named his team after a people he hated. No doubt, dudeman was a dick, but to say he named the team the Redskins in order to slander a race of people is kinda stretching, isn’t it? If he did (which is highly unlikely), he most certainly failed in his sinister plan; far from being a racial slur (which it never was in the first place), Redskin, like it was to Sitting Bull and many other native Americans, is a beloved term to millions of people. In the pantheon of false narratives, that implication (Marshall named his team to put down native Americans) is succulent in it’s laughable absurdity.

  18. ” Today, “Redskin” is used by a vast majority of people as a term of endearment in line with the rich tradition of native Americans.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAlaugh turning to tears and indignance.

  19. Catherine on said:

    A quick search of the term “Redskin” in old newspapers at the Library of Congress site Chronicling America ( http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov) sure does come up with a lot of proof that the term was often used in a slanderous manner. In 1905, one Washington, DC newspaper recounted a Native American boy being taunted by his peers: “…the boys made all manner of fun of him, calling him ‘Redskin,’ ‘Chief Bearkiller,’ and “Halfbreed.’”

  20. BOPST on said:

    That is an awesome site. And there are many different uses/meanings of “Redskin” beyond the one you listed.

  21. So Sioux Me on said:

    Everybody just chill the doggone fudge out! Bopst has a study that clears the whole issue up. Thanks dude. Phew! Total waste of time even discussing it now that it’s been conclusively proven that “Redskins” is not offensive to anyone. By the study.

    We can all move to other things now that we know for sure. I don’t know Dan Snyder, but does anyone have his number? We should tell him the good news – he doesn’t need to keep working on his “Washington Gooks” rebranding project. Yeah, some guy saw a study nine years ago that set the whole thing to rest.

    They polled like over 100 Indians from around the country. No, not with the dot, you know, with the “wuh wuh wuh wuh”. Yeah, so the entire population says it’s not offensive. That’s it. it’s done.

  22. Paul on said:

    Just change the logo to a potato, already…

  23. BOPST on said:

    So Sioux Me: That is awesome.
    Paul: As a Devo fan, I would approve.

    And again, no one’s opinion is going to change on this. What I do know is that the vast majority of people that use the term these days don’t use it as a slur. Like the word gay, Redskin has evolved over time to the point that it is almost completely vanquished of it’s debatable original meaning. To my way of thinking, that’s progress. Let’s assume for a moment that Redskin was a slur (even though there is ample documented evidence to the contrary). Over the course of time, what was once a hurtful term has changed to a term of endearment. I don’t think anyone would dispute that people today wearing Redskins clothing or cheering for the team are doing so to rub Indian descendant’s noses in the genocide of their ancestors. If anything, the Redskins (in the admittedly shallow world of professional sports) honor Native Americans as being worthy of adulation and respect. Having grown up with the team, I can tell you from personal experience that the Redskins were idols of mine and I never once said the term as a racial putdown. Shit, my friends and I used to call ourselves Redskins. While I freely will admit that there is a strange irony in the fact that the team’s fight song tells a story of Braves on the warpath fighting for ol’ DC, that goes back to how meanings change over the course of centuries. This country is a melting pot of violent contradictions and it’s own small but significant way, the Redskins franchise embodies that. Our country was founded on the slaughter of the indigenous residents and a whole slew of other morally regnant realities. Does that mean that we should change the country? Fuck no; we should acknowledge and correct those wrongs, but we should go forward and move ahead as Devo prophesized in their spiritual anthem “Whip It”.

    Sadly, changing the name of a private business won’t unslaughter the native Americans of yesteryear and more importantly, it won’t help the current generation of Indian descendents with the real life issues their community faces either; this whole to do about nothing is pure ineffectual lip service. If you really are concerned about the plight of today’s native Americans, there are much more effective things you could be doing than feigning moral outrage over the name of a sports franchise. And if you are outraged about the name of a privately owned, professional football team, don’t support them, but in your heart of hearts, you must know that there are much more important things in this world worthy of your righteous indignation other than this.

    At least, I would hope so.

  24. Liberty666 on said:

    Lets get the color right, how bout the Redish-brownskins

  25. Karen on said:

    Bopst: Well-said!!!!

  26. Karen2 on said:

    Let’s all come together as a people and agree on one thing – changing the subject to “well this isn’t the worst problem happening to Native Americans” is incredibly disingenuous. You feeling sad that people think your team’s name is creepy isn’t the worst thing happening in the world – why not go chip in with the troubles in Sudan rather than writing a poorly thought out article? Come on. Even wikipedia agrees that argument is garbage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_worse_problems No one is making the argument that if the Redskins change their name that everything will be fixed and OK for everyone forever, so I think you need to stop trying to refute that.

    I think the weirdest thing happening here is your repeated insistence that people that think the name isn’t cool are “feigning” being upset for …some reason? Even when someone tells you outright “I’m married to a guy of this racial background and he finds it offensive”, you say “no he doesn’t, look, there are polls!”. Does something only become offensive when you hit 51%?

  27. BOPST on said:

    Oh Karen, how I love to hear you feign.

  28. Mark Loft on said:

    By your denial logic, the swastika cannot be offensive because it originally meant something else.

  29. BOPST on said:

    Talk about a false (and extreme) equivalency. Again, nobody’s opinion is changing, but I do wuv the boisterous nature of this silly (fake) debate.

    I also wuv the”Redish-brownskins” Liberty666. I’d be happy with that name, but if the name does change, “The Skins” would be the logical choice. That way, people of all skin pigmentations could come together and feign revulsion as one.

  30. BOPST on said:
  31. court jackson on said:

    @Jecca….you’re right. We don’t get t0 decide if someone has the right to be offended.
    1-They have the right to be offended.
    2-The skins mean no offense.
    3- Even if they did mean offense….they also have that right
    4-Pulling the the “N” analogy card is a joke.
    5- I love how people who might have never thought about this matter (Easterbrook) are suddenly “passionate” about it. …Easterbrook wants to be known as a pioneer…
    6- Why aren’t these same “passionate” “do the right thing” people bashing the New York Giants? There are many people who suffer from growth and development anomalies such as giantism. It’s because of $$$. Of all the indian sports names…this is the one they stretch to be offensive….they want their piece of the pie.
    7- I am part Ute….I love that the redskins are the redskins.
    8- a fool is offended when offense was unintended. a greater fool is offended when offense was intended.

  32. court jackson on said:

    P.S. these white people who compare the ” “R” ” word to the “N” word are diluting how bad the “N” word is. Let’s get something straight. The “N” word is a bad bad term. It is and always had been meant to be derogatory. As one with Native American ancestry I am
    embarrassed of the comparison. It merely disrespects the African Americans. Period!

  33. G. Palmer on said:

    As an Eagles man I hate the Redskins. Anything that causes the Redskins any consternation or pain I am all in. But the real problem is the U.S. Government carried out a systematic Genocide against all native Americans. When asked U.S. Grant replied that ALL Native Americans should be rounded up and killed. Even St. Abraham Lincoln Hung 330 Northern Lacoda who raided when the Government let them starve. Native Americans have been mistreated by our culture and our Government more than any group, ever, bar none. Dan Snyder should stop worrying bout the millions he’s “invested in his copyright” and start doing the right thing. Bury RG3 at Wounded Knee. The trail ov tears goes right thru Dan “Jackass” Snyder. Bad Medicine. With all Washingtons’ done to the Tribes they should be ashamed to mock our noble sprit. Bad Medicine

  34. All Hail Nothing on said:

    “The curiously sudden backlash to the 80-year-old nickname is just part of a larger trend: The public is paying more attention to the NFL’s stance on ethical issues than ever. ”
    http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/10/why-debate-the-redskins-name-now/280398/

  35. HeyNow on said:

    Watch The Anti-Redskins Commercial That Will Run During The NBA Finals http://deadspin.com/heres-the-anti-redskins-commercial-that-will-run-during-1588597037/+kylenw

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