Edit: 2016.4.14 – Opinions evolve over time, and at the time this article was written, I believed it would have been appropriate to keep the logo the same but remove the racist name. My logic behind that is below, however I now think that if you’re serious about eliminating racist imagery in sport, it’s best to just make a clean break rather than a solution that some might view as half-baked. It’s time to change.
This post is going to be somewhat serious. I have to start out by saying that I am indeed a Washington Redskins fan. I’ve been a fan since as early as I can remember. Actually, scratch that… I do remember my Baltimoron grandparents buying me some Colts memorabilia before I really knew what football even was. (I think if I were able to search through old photographs, I’d be able to find a picture of me in a Baltimore Colts stocking cap…) It probably looked something like this. However, the Baltimore Colts absolutely sucked in the 1980’s, and the beginning of the Redskins’ heyday coincided with my older brother starting school in a suburb of DC. He tells me that he remembers the bus driver making all the kids chant “REDSKINS! REDSKINS! REDSKINS!” before driving away from the bus stop. This, compounded with the fact that the Baltimore Colts became the Indianapolis Colts in 1984, made it so that I was well on my way to indoctrination as a Redskins fan. Even when I went to church, all people seemed to do was talk about the Redskins. Then I myself entered school. I specifically remember that my 1st grade teacher, Ms. Goldstein, tried many times to be a Redskinette (Those are the team’s cheerleaders.) The team went to back-to-back Super Bowls in 1982 and 1983, and they were reasonably good after that. (Admittedly the first Super Bowl I actually saw was in 1986, where the ’85 Bears crushed the Patriots… I think that’s when I first really started to like watching football.)
Anyway all throughout elementary school, it seems everyone was talking about the Redskins.
Oh, Riggins is retiring! Oh no! LT broke Theismann’s leg! Hey! Jay Schroeder is pretty good. Wow! Jay Schroeder sucks! Cool! The Posse! The Hogs! Doug Williams is Awesome! Who the heck is Timmy Smith?
I remember one time back then, my Colt-less grandparents bought me some Dallas Cowboys pajamas for my birthday. I almost cried, and was really embarrased to wear them. I think they might have been the first set of clothes that I conveniently “lost” during one of my sleepovers at a friend’s house.
The constant chatter about the ‘skins continued into middle school, when the team last won the Super Bowl in the 1991 season.
Who’s this Mark Rypien guy? Butterfingers Byner? Mark Rypien is not a winner! OMG Mark Rypien is AWESOME! OMG Mark Rypien was only awesome last year.
And unfortunately the team declined into sucktitude during my high school years…. and the hated Cowboys rose to prominence. This is when you could tell the true fans from the people who only liked the team when it was good. People who I had grown up with who had been talking about the Redskins as if they truly loved the team were now talking about Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith, and Michael Irvin. But the faithful still were talking about the Redskins in this dark time.
We got Desmond HOWARD, REPEAT!!! Gary Clark’s a Cardinal? We got Heath Shuler!!! Things are looking up. OMG Shuler’s hurt again? Wait a minute, who are these guys? Gus Frerrote gave himself a concussion after celebrating a Touchdown? Why do we suck? WHYYYYYY?!??!?! Norv can’t win!!!!!
All right.. the point of all that is simply to illustrate that this team is very much a part of my identity. I grew up in an era where the football team was in Washington, and the baseball team was in Baltimore. I still like those two teams, even though now DC also has a baseball team and Baltimore also has a football team. Sure, it was great when the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000, and I was hoping they would, but this wasn’t the team I grew up with. I’m probably of a dying breed, as future generations of Baltimorons and Washingtonians won’t connect with the Redskins and Orioles. They’ll either be Redskins-Nationals fans or Ravens-Orioles fans.
Why are you bothering to tell us how you love some frickin’ sports teams that only people who grew up in your area would even care about?
Fair question. This blog post has probably been very interesting for any Baltimore/Washington area readers or football fans, but my readership at large is probably bored out of their wits at this point. There’s a second issue I’d like to talk about though. That is the issue of Native American mascots.
What are they?
Well, in America, there are a lot of teams (not just at the professional level) which have names or mascots based on Native Americans, or stereotypes of Native Americans. Some examples include the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, the Florida State University Seminoles, the University of Illinois Illini, the Northwood High School Savages, and of course, my beloved Washington Redskins.
So what’s the issue?
Well, it appears that some Native American groups object to these mascots, as they are either downright offensive, don’t portray them in a good light, don’t portray them accurately, or simply, they don’t like them. I mean, come to think of it, would we feel good about a team called the Chicago Chinky Chinamen? The New York Niggers? The Philadelphia Faggots? The San Jose Fighting Jews? The Wisconsin Wetbacks? No, we wouldn’t. So why is it that Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and Washington Redskins are okay? They are not.
I’ve heard that argument over and over before. It’s necessary to look at INTENT. None of these teams means to offend Native Americans. Furthermore, Redskins, Braves, and Indians aren’t even pejoratives! Continue reading