This week the Washington Post editorial board decided that it will no longer use the word ‘Redskins’ when referring to the Washington football team that has used the name for the past 80 years. The team name is a ‘slur’ and offends many, the editors say. The new policy will apply to editorials only, not the news and sports sections of the newspaper.
In doing so, the Washington Post joins a small number of campaigners that seek to force the Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, and the National Football League (NFL) to change the team’s name. The campaign mainly consists of some Native American groups, Democratic Party politicians, certain sports commentators and assorted liberals. President Obama has also weighed in, saying the team ought to ‘think about changing’ its name. Although small in number, the campaigners are influential and very prominent in the media.
However, the vast majority of Americans – about eight in 10, according to polls – are opposed to changing the team’s name. It even appears that most Native Americans, perhaps up to 90 per cent, are either not bothered by the name or see it as a compliment. A number of Native American high-school teams call themselves the Redskins.
There’s a good reason why most people are against changing the name: common sense. The anti-Redskins campaigners are cut off from the real world. Everyone but a small minority recognise that there is no racist intent or malice behind the name. Fans of the team have used the name with pride since it was introduced in the 1930s.
There is also something really odd and worrying about trying to claim the name is offensive: it seeks to re-write history. A team name that has had entirely positive connotations for decades, which is part of NFL tradition and lore, is now deemed offensive. That means that every time thousands of fans sing the fight song ‘Hail to the Redskins’ after a touchdown, they are supposedly engaging in a racist act. We are all now meant to feel guilty about uttering the innocuous name.