Culture, Science & Faith

Native Americans Give Redskins Name Collective Yawn

Some 90% don't find the mascot troubling. Washington Post editors hardest hit.

Michael Swartz · May 20, 2016

When it comes to on-field performance, the once-proud Washington Redskins have been mired in mediocrity for the last couple of decades: The team hasn’t made the Super Bowl for a quarter-century and has just eight winning seasons to show for that time period. Fans of “old DC” haven’t had a whole lot to hail.

Yet unlike any other franchise enduring a run of bad seasons, the Redskins have found far more controversy off the field than they ever did determining whether Robert Griffin III was going to be their franchise savior, or whether the return of Joe Gibbs as coach would make Washington great again. While a number of high school and college programs have been shamed into replacing their “Redskins,” “Indians” or other tribal mascots with more politically correct nicknames like Redhawks, Red Storm or Eagles, the ‘Skins franchise has refused to consider a name change despite the protestations of even “progressive” members of Congress and a punitive trademark decision upheld by a federal judge last year. In the face of all of that, owner Dan Snyder has vowed to keep the Redskins name.

So imagine the surprise when The Washington Post, the editorial board of which has made it a mission to browbeat the Redskins into calling themselves something less offensive to their left-wing sensitivities, conducted a poll that found the vast majority of Native Americans still couldn’t care less about the issue. This despite a dozen years of drummed up controversy since a similar poll was conducted. Even more disconcerting for the editors, some Native Americans who did care thought the Redskins name was something to be proud of.

Needless to say, those delicate flowers at the Post attempted to justify the paper’s stance, as reporter Dan Steinberg fretted, “[C]ombine the new poll’s results with U.S. Census data and you’ll find that something like 1.1 million Native Americans think the word 'Redskin’ is disrespectful to them, even if some of them don’t mind it in a sports context. Put aside all those hypotheticals about bird lovers aghast at the Orioles and small people outraged by the Giants; I find it hard to believe there’s another U.S. sports franchise whose name offends so many of the people it’s supposedly meant to honor.”

In fact, the polling data showed Native Americans are far less concerned about the franchise name than the public at large is. Tribal leaders interviewed by the Post about the poll results worried much more about poor schools, unemployment and substance abuse on their reservations and among their people than the name of a sports team.

Those who support a change, however, also cite local precedent: Tired of the “violent” connotation of their team nickname, then-owner Abe Pollin changed the name of his NBA franchise from the Washington Bullets to the Wizards in 1995. But the rather short history of the Washington Bullets (which kept the Bullets nickname when they relocated from Baltimore in 1973) and the middling stature of the NBA make this an apples-to-oranges comparison.

And Joe Gibbs is one of those who thinks the Redskins name is just fine. Growing up in North Carolina, he admitted to being a fan of the team. “That whole time, I was a Redskin and I loved it,” Gibbs said. “And when I got a chance to coach the Washington Redskins, I can honestly say I do not remember anybody saying anything negative to me about the Redskins name. The whole time I was there, I associated Redskins with courage and bravery.”

It seems the only ones exhibiting courage and bravery now are those who stand for what’s considered politically incorrect, or are focused on more important things than the name of an otherwise-pedestrian sports franchise. Hail to the Redskins, indeed.

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