The Washington Redskins

Sorry for the rant. But what is the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the words ‘The Washington Redskins’? I would think that, for most people, it would be the professional football team that plays in Landover, Maryland, while calling Washington DC their home. But after reading over a dozen articles that say the name is racist, I began to wonder if that was the only thing that pops into people’s minds. Now for full disclosure — I am a lifelong Washington Redskin fan. And I personally never want to see this team’s name changed. But that is me; it’s a fan thing. Now most of the people who are calling for the name change are not Native Americans. As far as I know, Phil Jackson is a perfect example. He recently tweeted about the name and a columnist for the Bleacher Report wrote an article from it.

Now everyone has the right to his own opinion. And it’s obvious that some people are offended by the name. But according to a survey done by the National Annenberg Election Survey (this is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania) only nine percent of Native Americans are outraged. The survey ran from October 7th, 2003 through September 20th, 2004 and asked the opinions of 768 people who identified themselves as Native Americans. Out of the other ninety-one percent, one percent had no answer while ninety percent had no problem with the name being used by a professional sports franchise.

The Redskins were not originally known as the Redskins; in fact, they were not originally based in Washington. The team began as the Boston Braves back in 1932. It might be hard to imagine now, but back in the early thirties, pro football was not a popular sport; it was in its infancy. So, in an effort to gain relevance, most of the new football teams used their city’s baseball team’s name for marketing. And the National League baseball team in Boston was the Boston Braves. The Football Braves even shared the field with the baseball franchise. The field was known as Braves Field. This was not a hard decision for the owner at the time to make. But without a publicized reason, the very next season the team’s name changed to the name it would carry to this day, the Redskins.

The most popular reason behind choosing the team’s name, to honor the Native American head coach might very well be moot. There is evidence that William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz was not a Native American; so I will discount this commonly alleged reason given for the name. Now there is something that should be known; and, that is, that a Native American helped to design the team’s current logo. Walter Wetzel was a former chairman of the Blackfoot Tribe as well as the president of the National Congress of American Indians, as well as the spark for the famous logo. In an article from, Mark Fisher quotes Walter Wetzel:

I said, ‘I’d like to see an Indian on your helmets,’

It made us all so proud to have an Indian on a big-time team. . . . It’s only a small group of radicals who oppose those names. Indians are proud of Indians.

Turning from history to the current events, star quarterback RGIII recently tweeted “In a land of freedom we are held hostage by the tyranny of political correctness”. According to one article, this tweet was posted shortly after it was learned that D.C. Council member David Grosso would be attempting to push for a change in the team’s name through the law. Griffin later went on to define tyranny in another tweet. “Tyranny – a condition imposed by some outside agency or force living under the tyranny of the clock, or political correctness….”

In this day and age, the culture seems to be encouraging people to take offense at the slightest provocation. After all, anything that makes any individual “feel” uncomfortable must be done away with. That is a very low threshold. It creates a lot of angry people. And angry people make for an angry society. Is that really what we want?