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Oct. 21, 2013

Respect trumps tradition

by Samuel Popper, Sports Editor
The Washington Redskins have had a tough season so far, but they are currently facing an even bigger problem: their team name.

To the football world, the name "Redskins" symbolizes a great, tradition that has lasted about 80 years, but to Native Americans around the country, the name is an offensive term that represents their culture in a derogatory way. The Redskins are rightfully facing pressure from the Oneida Indian Nation, Congress, local newspapers and myself to change their name.

The Washington Redskins should change their team name. Emma Strongin
The Washington Redskins should change their team name.
Many Redskins fans wonder whether or not the team name "Redskins" even had the intent of racism in the first place. The fact is, it did. George Preston Marshall owned the team from 1932 until his death, in 1969 and was the owner who dubbed the team the "Redskins." Known as a very racist man, Marshall proved to be one of the dark points of the franchise in terms of ownership. Under his rule, the Redskins were the last team to become racially integrated and only did after facing financial threats from the United States Secretary of the Interior. The team also never hired an African American coach. In fact, when they finally did integrate in 1962, it was called "the integration success story of the Kennedy administration." by Boston Globe columnist Wilfrid Rodgers. The team name "Redskins" is no accident; it is of racist intent and must change.

The Redskins need to change their team name and abandon the disrespect that it gives to Native Americans across the country. Ten Congressmen wrote letters to Snyder and the Oneida Indian Nation has made many press releases stating their opinion on the derogatory team name. However, Redskin's owner Dan Snyder disagrees, remaining defiant to even the possibility of a name change for his team. "I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what its all about and what it means," Snyder said in a statement to the press.

Several Blazers agree with Snyder about the name change. Sophomore Quinn McKenzie and junior Matiyas Ganoro both emphasized the tradition of the Redskins in their reasoning for why the team name should stay the same. "No, it's tradition, so I believe it should stay that way," Ganoro said. "No, they've had that name for a long time and it doesn't make sense to change it now," McKenzie said.

But contrary to Snyder's belief, this team name change is not impossible even if they have a great tradition. In fact, in 1997, the Washington basketball team changed their team name from the Bullets to the Wizards to emphasize the organization's disapproval of gun violence. At that point, the over thirty-year-old tradition of the "Bullets" included four conference championships, more than the Redskins had during that span. However, I have never met anybody that still wishes that the "Wizards" were still named the "Bullets." That team name moved on, as will the Redskins if they choose to change their name.

Now the question remaining is what the Redskins should change their team name to. Some ideas include a name that died in the NFL and has been missing for a long time, such as the "Oilers," a name that represents Native Americans in a way that is not derogatory, such as the "Natives" or even an American name that is widely respected in sports, such as the "Legends." Or the team can use a nickname for the Redskins that the fans love, such as the "Hogs." There are infinite possibilities for a new name to represent football in Washington D.C. It is fair to say that maybe those ideas sound unusual in the same way "Wizards" was also viewed as strange early on, but it was eventually accepted. The new name of the Redskins will do the same.

The Washington Redskins are a great organization with a long standing tradition. However, the Washington football team can make a new tradition, just like the Washington Basketball team did when it changed its name to the "Wizards." Respect trumps tradition, and to respect and honor the Native Americans in our country today, the Redskins must change their name.



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  • Fan of Respect on October 21, 2013 at 9:10 PM
    Sam Popper makes a strong agrument for changing the name of the Redskins. I suggest that Dan Snyder takes Sam's advice.
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