Mascots and prejudice: The ongoing saga of the Washington Redskins

Notre Dame Fighting Irish racist mascotI’ve got an old friend whose name is Dan Gleason.  We used to call him “Rocket” Dan.  Despite being one of the elder statesmen among our merry band of bar-dwelling, hoop-shooting Gator fans, Dan had a solid game and a super quick release on his jumper, hence the nickname.

Dan Gleason was also, as you might have guessed from his surname, of Irish descent.  And somewhat ironically, he hated Notre Dame.  Not for the normal reasons most people hate Notre Dame.  Rocket Dan hated Notre Dame because he thought their mascot and team name were racist.

I had never before been privy to such a rant but he’d sit me down time after time, disgusted that people could overlook such a travesty.  The name “Fightin’ Irish,” he would argue, was inherently racist.  And don’t get him started on the little, angry leprechaun with his dukes up ready to fight.  To Rocket, that was as insulting and as prejudiced as they come.

This was back in the early 1990s before political correctness swept the nation.  It was before the Washington Bullets changed their name to the Washington Wizards.  It was before the Cleveland Indians decided to remove Chief Wahoo from their baseball caps.  But it wasn’t before the NFL’s Washington Redskins decided to change their name.

That’s because they haven’t.

redskins protestorsThere’s been plenty of uproar lately, public outcry for team owner Daniel Snyder to change the name of his Washington Redskins to something a little more palatable, something a little less offensive.  Critics claim the name “Redskin” is derogatory and demeaning to Native Americans.  As of yet, the league has taken no official stance.  They could if they wanted to, a la NBA and Donald Sterling, but to date, Commissioner Goodell has opted a mums the word stance, which is actually a refreshing break from hearing him open his mouth to say something far more offensive than the existence of any mascot.

Snyder proudly proclaims the team name honors our nation’s Native American heritage, that the name represents the players, the fans and the district.  He has vowed never to change it which is amazing considering most owners would change their team’s name regularly if it meant generating more marketing and merchandising revenue.  But Snyder is standing his ground and taking a fair amount of heat for it in the process.

Snyder has only owned the Redskins since 1999.  They were called the Redskins long before he ever signed on the dotted line.

Daniel Snyder is also of Jewish descent.

So am I.

Snyder RedskinsI don’t have any Native American friends.  I’ve disowned them for taking all my money on regular visits to the local Hard Rock Casino.  But I can tell you if there was a team called the Washington Jews, I’d probably find it offensive.  It’s not that I’m not proud of being Jewish.  I am.  But the word has been used with implicit hatred over the years and it just sounds improper.

I’ve never called anyone a Redskin, nor have I ever heard anyone call anyone else a Redskin, but I have heard plenty of racial slurs in my day and I’m pretty sure a team called the Washington Negroes (or worse) would also generate a fair amount of controversy.

So where do we go from here and how far do we allow political correctness to take us?  If the name offends one person, do we change it?  What about if it offends three, five, five hundred or an entire race or creed?  Then what?

Dan Snyder owns the team and until the NFL or perhaps the courts tell him differently, he could call his team the Washington Poopshoots and get away with it, not that I’d want to see that logo either.

Snyder’s a putz and a rich one at that but I don’t believe he’s inherently racist.  I don’t believe he sits back in his office chair, chuckling under his breath as he points a figuratively spiteful finger at all Native Americans.  No, I honestly believe he thinks his team honors that part of our nation’s heritage.

The problem is that a growing number of others do not.

And that fact will ultimately lead to Snyder changing the name of the team, for better or for worse.  And he will make millions on the new merchandising.  Then we’ll all scurry to find the next team name that we deem offensive.

I know one guy who would like to start in South Bend, Indiana.

38 thoughts on “Mascots and prejudice: The ongoing saga of the Washington Redskins

  1. I was born in Baltimore. My father was a Baltimore Bullet fan and then a Washington Bullet fan. Thus I became a Bullet fan…until they changed their nickname/mascot. Likewise, I am still an Indianapolis Colt fan. However as soon as they change their name I probably would not be. I think this whole thing is beyond silly. Again, people just looking for reasons to be offended. I am Irish also…couldn’t care less what Notre Dame calls itself.

    I am offended when the PC crowd gets its way all of the time. Removing bad words from Huckleberry Finn right on up the pike to changing mascots names. Nah the Redskin name can stay and the offended can suck it up for change.

  2. It might be insensitive of me, but people are way too sensitive these days. I don’t really have a problem with it. I have a couple friends that are native Americans and they really could care less. The people who protest stuff like this is a waste of time imo…

  3. I guess I just see this as a minor thing. We have people starving, commercial jets being shot down or just disappearing altogether, religious up risings, countries on the precipice of war, declining quality of life worldwide, diseases etc…

    I could go on but you get my point. Stuff like this is a waste of time to me. Maybe it is because I have children and fear the future of our planet more than some people being offended by a word or picture. Who knows? Words are only as powerful as any one person lets them be.

  4. Washington Jews isn’t really the comparison for redskins – more like Cleveland Jews instead of Indians. Equivalence would be more like Wash Kikes or something like that. Jew is not really close to the same as Redskin.

    Issue is not theoretical either. Amsterdam’s Ajax team has been unofficially called the Jews for years and you’ll find a ton of tall, blond, lanky white people there rocking jewish star tattoos or dancing to hava negila when they win. To me, the Dutch have always been good to the jews, hence the nickname, Jew is not an insult and, to be honest, I feel we’re underrepresented in sports. Go Jews!

  5. This situation wouldn’t be so idiotic until you realize the hypocrisy of both sides of this whole issue . Look at the attitude of Notah Begay III (Native American Indian) and his charitable foundation (NB3) , then you realize prior to this whole dilemma , his charity accepted millions of dollars from Daniel Snyder’s > own charitable foundation ran in conjunction with the NFL franchise itself .

    The NFL /a is filled with a great deal of hypocrisy but even more so , there is a continued lack of leadership among the league hierarchy and owners . That is where the real problem really lies .

    tophatal …………

  6. Needless to say, if the did call it the Wash Kikes, I’d support burning the mother down. I don’t see this as an issue of oversensitivity or somehow irrelevant because other things are scarier. Seems like almost everyone knows better at this point- just comes across as willfully ignorant.

  7. Alright, nice to see this has generated some healthy discussion.

    Where to start, where to start.

    I like D taking the hard stance, comparing it to book burning. Keep healthy expression the way it was meant to be. A little Fahrenheit 451 for ya’.

    So what’s your take, D? Does Snyder eventually change the name? Might not happen this year or next but don’t you think it’ll happen?

    Are you a Snyder fan… and if you weren’t before (I know most Skins fans aren’t), are you more of a fan of his now for him sticking to his guns?

    And as always you bring up a great point. Sure the name may alienate some but how many people will they alienate if they actually change the team name to something more PC?

  8. Jefe…

    And as soon as we get a good Jew in the game to root for (Ryan Braun), he gets pegged for HGH use.

    Damnit all to hell!

    I can’t even imagine what those soccer games are like. Something like that would probably cause a riot in Brooklyn.

  9. Ya can’t use Poopchutes…that name is reserved for FSU once this nonsense comes back around to them.

  10. Jefe…

    George Carlin used to preach there’s no such things as bad words, only bad intentions. So the word Jew can also be used in a hurtful tone.

    Unless of course if you’re shouting “Go Jews!” at a Dutch soccer match at the top of your lungs, a visual we all thank you for, by the way. And who DOESN’T rock out to a little Hava every now and then.

    Readers, here’s a link to the Ajax piece J was referring to.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/28/world/europe/28iht-jews.html

  11. 1st world problems man. Only in America do folks get their panties in a wad over a nickname that’s been used for decades.

    Israel is in perpetual threat from Hamasholes tunneling into their country to kidnap, murder and kill as many Jews as possible and we’re concerning ourselves with a nickname?

    Russia, China and radical Islamists are invading other countries territories, the economy is still in shambles, Ebola, an illegal immigrant invasion is being allowed on our southern border and we’re worried about hurting someones widdow feewings. It’s downright laughable.

    Those looking for something to be offended about will always be able to find it, intended or not.

    The pussification of America is sad indeed.

  12. Damn, Bleed.

    Well fucking said.

    I think I’m gonna work up a petition from these comments and send ’em all to Snyder to give him a little warm and fuzzy.

    By the way, I find the name SportsChump offensive. URL change forthcoming.

  13. The kids are 17, 14 and almost 13 and we do have discussions about this stuff. The two older ones are the girls and thus way more mature than my son. They already have a healthy idea of what to say or not say. The are pretty open minded about people of different backgrounds, sexual orientation or anything else that may be different from them. The boy is a bit different and I have caught him using a slur and we discussed that people are different and to be tolerant. Not to mention being mean just for the sake of it is a no go. He is watching what he says and I am trying to help him learn about people. I certainly don’t agree with everybody, but I don’t have malicious intent when discussing various controversial topics with people with whom I disagree.

    The Ray Rice situation is very unfortunate, but very prevalent in today’s society. I think he should be suspended for more than 2 games. I also have a problem when the NFL suspends somebody for smoking pot for 4 games but gives a woman beater a 2 game suspension. Basically the NFL advocates domestic violence by taking this stance.

    As much as I dislike SA Smith I am perplexed by his suspension. He gets paid for opinions and commentary. Which is what he gave on the show. He then gets suspended? In all honesty he didn’t say anything that extreme IMO.

    I don’t like domestic violence of any sort so I am frowning upon the whole situation. Men seem to be the dominant people committing these acts and it needs to to stop. That said women need to not lay their hands on men either and it happens quite often and they get away with it honestly.

  14. Oh and no I am not a Snyder fan…think he is a bit of a tool. Yes I think ultimately he will change the name under the pressure that will surely build over the next few years. I don’t think he should change it though.

  15. D….

    Sounds like you’re doing a good job, brother.

    And sure it’s wrong for a female to instigate but that still doesn’t excuse Rice or Oden-like behavior.

    Like an old buddy once told me, the only time it’s acceptable to hit a woman is during sex.

    Over/under on how long it takes Snyder to change the name? I’m not sure. I’m interested in seeing whether this whole thing dies down or picks up speed.

  16. Oh of course it doesn’t excuse the behavior nor should it. Most men can beat up most women if it comes down to it. So as men we have a responsibility to take the high road. I just know of several cases where the woman does the beating and the man just takes it and I have a huge problem with that as well.

    I think he will change it after this season. I just hope congress is not the one who forces his hand. So 1 year is my over/under.

  17. It’s women like that, D, and I’ve known many that I choose to disassociate myself with entirely.

    And I know it ain’t easy but sometimes, like a band-aid, right off, is the best policy.

  18. The league (NFL) has always been afraid to take a stand on so many damn things, so why should we start to see anything different from out them now ? Goodell , the owners and the union are a damn joke to begin with . Money has been the only thing , that matters to them and will continue to do so . Meanwhile, the fans will continue to be served up crap and have to deal with all of the issues stemming from the NFL’s ongoing stupidity and having to pay an increased price for all of their services, which have been higher than the rate of inflation .

    So A Rod didn’t know his cousin , Yuri Sucart , had a flourishing online sales’ business, he was operating in conjunction with Tony Bosch of Biogenesis ? But somehow he knew Yuri was supplying him with ‘roids they allegedly got in the DR (Dominican Republic) ? Baseball (league hierarchy) has a lot to answer for, in terms of their stupidity . The sales within with the state (Florida) to high school athletes and coaches have been ongoing for several years but somehow this escapes the notice of the FDLE (Florida Dept of Law Enforcement) and FHSAA (Florida High School Athletics Association). What $$$king use are these state agencies to begin with ?

  19. Who’s going to stop McIlroy in the PGA Championship ? Look at the leader-board and tell me a likely contender to usurp him over the final two rounds ?

    If the name change concerning the Redskins were in fact having to deal with , perhaps the insinuation of an African-American derogatory term , would there by any greater outcry overall ? Just wondering how the NFL would feel given the makeup of the playing rosters of the thirty-two teams within the league and with regard to the executive committee of the union ? Touchy on race relations , but yet it is treated so differently in this country , when dealing with specific demographics, as some are given preferential treatment in so many areas , specifically within the media .

  20. Chris

    If the Justice System would do its frigging job in terms of women being battered , we wouldn’t see the repetitive behavior among athletes and entertainers concerning this issue . Victims are now being given less rights and recourse whereas the defendants more often than not are being treated with kid gloves . Goodell’s statement and the one attributed to the league’s Chief Assistant Legal Counsel Adolpho Birch fully emphasized that concerning Ray Rice . How is it no one within your readers picked up on that fact ? Rice’s acts were heinous but here are Goodell and Birch somehow trying to justify it all because it was the player’s first offense . It was also Donte’ Stallworth’s first offense , when he killed an innocent bystander while driving under the influence of marijuana and alcohol , and look at the punishment meted out by the NFL and the Florida justice system . How $$$ked up was that ?

    A@@holes running and ruining a league but all fans seem to be interested in are the inequalities between the sexes and abuse . What happened to simple common decency and knowing right from wrong ?

  21. One of the luxuries of being wealthy, so I’ve heard, is that you can dismiss whatever anyone else thinks and damn near do or don’t do whatever you want. Although I think Daniel Snyder is NFL-stupid, I tip my cap to him for his ardent stance against a name change. Do I think he will buckle under public opinion pressure? Absolutely not. For all of the boneheaded decisions he’s made as an owner regarding player personnel, I think he relishes telling supporters (including the President of the United States) to fuck off by refusing to entertain a name change. It’s definitely been one decision I applaud and one that I see him as never wavering on.

    Not until I read your article have I once heard that Fighting Irish is offensive to anyone. Even after thinking about it awhile I just can’t understand why someone (the “Rocket”) would find it offensive. I’m of German-Irish descent and would love to know how “Fighting Irish” is racist and the mascot is inherently prejudicial. I would think the name Mountaineers is more offensive as it conjures up images of hillbillies donning bib-overalls with their front four teeth missing sucking on a jug of moonshine. Perhaps Rocket could write a guest column explaining his platform in more detail.

    Enjoyed the read.

  22. The NFL is wholeheartedly unapologetic as well, Al. Yet we continue to support the sport. Like I said, the league might want to appreciate the fan a little more than it does. Nothing is forever and that includes the NFL’s stronghold on this country.

    A-Rod lying, Al? Let me ask you something. When has he ever told the truth?

    McIlroy’s got a one-shot lead going into the final round but nothing is a given. He’s got some quality players, including Phil, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler all within striking distance.

  23. Thanks, Markaz.

    I haven’t spoken with Rocket in years but if I do, I’ll be sure he swings by the site to explain his opinion on the matter.

    Let me ask you this? What do you think of some schools like Ole Miss still using a rebel flag as their logo?

  24. The fans love the NFL and don’t really give a damn about the behavior of the players , much less the frigging lack of leadership of the hierarchy. Bleed suggessts about the pussi-fication of the country, how about its actual lack of morals and common decency ?

    Week one of the preseason anything that stood out to you ?

    McIlroy seems to slipping down the PGA leaderboard faster than butter off a hot knife .

    tophatal …………..

  25. If Ricky Fowler wins the PGA Championship how do you see his career panning out after such a win ?

    We know if Lefty wins it simply adds another $20 million to his personal fortune in terms of endorsement income.

  26. It’s not so much the lies with A Rod but the MLB hierarchy simply cowering like @ssholes and not hoilding the player’s feet to the fire because of the power of the MBPA (union) . It is the same with the NFL , NBA and NHL as well . Pi#s poor leadership all-round .

    tophatal …..

  27. It’s been a rough few years as a football fan, following the Redskins and Penn State.
    It’s really going to be interesting to see where this story goes, and not just with the Redskins, but with some of the other teams like the Braves and Indians.

  28. Very interesting Triple SC… Years ago I was a loan processor/loan officer and the credit report had abbreviations for the creditors. Well, I came across one that was truly offensive- Friedman Jewelers was abbreviated  as “friedjew”.  Um…not good, and I am not Jewish.  I called, complained and matter resolved that day. 

    My son is Asian and has encountered offensive name calling, but we all have in one way or another growing up, whether it is four eyes or differences due to race, culture or religion.  What I find so interesting is that the only time he has gotten upset or asked me to intercede is when someone calls him different than South Korean, but not about his eyes or the color of his skin- he’d say, ” Please explain to them I’m not Chinese, I am South Korean”. Of course, at 11, he now adds “and I am awesome.” 

    What I am getting at is we all have different sensitivities and no way to please all. I honestly do not believe  these team names and logos are offensive.   I agree with Bleed about the “The pussification of America”. There are times to make a stand as I did with the abbreviation, and then there are times to suck it up and get over it. My mother in law thinks Victoria’s Secret commercials are offensive and disgusting…and I just cry out for equality asking where the hell is my “Victor’s Secret” commercials for gorgeous men to be parading before me? Ha ha! And Chris, same goes for women hitting men is acceptable only during sex..again, I’m standing up for equality here to make sure everyone enjoys the fun. Of course, exception to this is me punching your shoulder during that walk off Home Run at the ALDS game; it’s completely allowed then, too! 😉

    Redskins should stay as is…and Congress should not get involved, but deal with more pressing issues. 
    Dee Dee

  29. That’s my whole point, Al, and has been for a while.

    We have a voice. When we choose to exercise that voice based on a series of bad decisions is when the league should start to worry.

    Needless to say, that hasn’t come close to happening yet.

    With Fowler, winning a major might be just a matter of time, unless he becomes this generation’s. All depends on how dedicated and committed he is to his game.

  30. KP…

    If I were you, I’d enjoy the Jay Gruden honeymoon while it lasts.

    And you’re right, once the Redksins shoe drops, it’ll be interesting to see which team name is the next to come under scrutiny.

  31. Good stuff, Dee Dee.

    Just when I thought this generation was smarter and kinder, I hear stories like that about your boy.

    Let me know if you need help kicking any ass.

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