Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Redskins, Just Change Your Name Already

The US Patent Office has revoked the trademark on the Redskins' name, claiming that said name is disparaging. While I don't disagree with that assessment, it's a sneaky, roundabout way for the US Government to get involved and try to compel the Redskins to change their name. Which they cannot do directly.

While I think the Government should be less involved in the controversy over the Redskins' name, the NFL has left a vacuum to be filled. The NFL normally micromanages every aspect of the game that involves appearance and image. They punish players for not tucking their shirt in, for choreographed celebration, and for doing anything that might tarnish the league's image.

Yet they've passed the buck of responsibility on the Redskins issue. They won't ask/request/demand that the Redskins change their name. Nor will they stand behind the name and defend it from its critics and detractors. They've wiped their hands of the issue. Which is decidedly indecisive of them. It's very un-Goodell-like.

Daniel Snyder, just change the name. Teams change their names all the time. Teams change cities with even more ease.

The Texans were the Oilers, the Ravens were the Browns, the Chiefs were the Texans, the Colts played in Baltimore, the Cardinals in St. Louis, the Rams in LA. The Washington Redskins were once the Boston Braves (changed to Redskins when they moved to Fenway Park in 1933). It happens.

The Red Sox were once the Pilgrims, once the Americans. The Yankees were once the Highlanders. The baseball Braves were once the Beaneaters. The Giants were once the Haymakers. From 1953 to 1959 the Cincinnati Reds changed their name to Redlegs because they didn't want to be associated with Communism.

Straw Man Argument #1:
The name isn't that offensive, here are some polls to back me up.

Who cares what percentage of randomly polled people find it offensive? It's not about being offensive, it's about being an outdated term. Like "negro" or "colored" are outdated terms. If you had a Native American friend, would you introduce him by saying "That Redskin over there is Charlie, he lives next door?"

People probably aren't offended by "redskin" because nobody uses it. But if people did use it, it would be considered a derogatory term. You wouldn't use it in conversation with a Native American. You'd get written up at work if you used it.

If you wouldn't use the term to the face of the person the term is supposed to describe, it's probably not a good term.

Straw Man Argument #2:
Slippery slope! Changing the name might lead to ridiculous requests to change other team's names.

So changing the Redskins' isn't a ridiculous request, but you're worried about future ridiculous requests. Lame argument. Deal with the absurd requests when they come. The Cleveland Indians might need to change their name, and their cartoonishly racist logo. The Chiefs should be okay because the term "chief" isn't racist. The Braves might be in some trouble. But let's deal with those discussions as they come up.

Not giving in now because you don't want to give in later is irrational.

Straw Man Argument #3:
History and tradition

I don't think you want to go down the road of history when discussing Native American issues.

This is a foolish argument anyway. It's like going back to the 1920s and arguing that women shouldn't have the right to vote because they traditionally and historically haven't had it. It's like arguing that we should continue to use terms like "negro" and "colored" because they're traditional and historical.

The Redskins have a rich history as the Redskins. Changing the name won't erase that history. The Syracuse Orange used to be the Orangemen until 2004, yet SU fans still shove their history down everyone's throat.

So Redskins, you've had your name for 80 years. It was a good run. But it's a term from the 1930s. It's time to grow up and find a new name for yourselves. Nobody uses the term "Redskin" anymore. You shouldn't either. You've changed names before, changed cities, changed stadiums, changed uniforms, changed logos. Time to find a new name.