My Two Sense: The Washington Redskins’ Name
Sometimes I wonder what life is like in less prosperous countries where time and work are directly proportional to one’s ability to survive. Does person A get into a debate with person B about person C’s name? Of course not, they have better things to do. Unfortunately, I’ve settled on this simple idea: people will complain. It doesn’t matter how great life is (see: Jay Gatsby), each and every day a human will compose a problem out of his or her imagination. In America, we do it to an exhaustive extent. The PC–politically correct–Gestapo are out there in full force, waiting to command and conquer the world one (non) issue at a time.
When I get worked up about this, I always think back to the South Park episode where the boys call the bikers “fags.” Once the episode reaches the classic South Park denouement, we get the boys explaining how the word “fag” has changed meaning over the years. In essence, it’s meaning has evolved because it’s been abused by adolescent children. It no longer is a pejorative for gay people; rather, it simply means–colloquially–asshole, which I guess is a bit of a paradox, but I digress. This is exactly how the Redskins have evolved. Does anyone truly think about the derogatory nature of the word? As a Packer fan, I’m fully aware of our origin story, and yet I don’t find myself cheering for Green Bay because of their fantastic meat packing beginnings.
Whenever I do read an article about this, I get annoyed (see, people without problems create problems). Published on Grantland, the author of the article writes for the Nation and is a fan of the Redskins. Oh wow, another politico weighing in on the sports arena. Hey John Kerry, how was your visit to Lambart (sic) Field? I read Mr. Zirin’s article and came away with nothing. He merely lambastes Daniel Snyder along with his perennial lackluster team. While all true, this doesn’t solve the problem. It’s simply a public relations shitball slung in Synder’s direction. And that’s how it works. No real substantive debate. No, simply a smear campaign until Synder and co. are too toxic to mop up the waste.
Now I want to make it clear. I’m not advocating for either side. I don’t care one iota what happens. I just can’t stand political correctness. Ironically enough (or maybe not, depending on your bias), it was Redskins’ QB, RG3, who tweeted this gem out there:
So does context matter? Is derogatory a subjective value, with the variable being the intent? Example: Many girls call their friends their “bitches” or, in some dialects, “betches.” In this close circle, an insult is actually a term of endearment. As a guy, I expect to be called a penis or dickhead (Frued was on to something, huh?) upon entering a room. It’s expected. Not giving a friend a perverse nickname is an insult in some circles. I argue that context is as important as the word itself. Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny were calling the bikers “fags” with a context that has been usurped over the years to mean 2013’s version of asshole, not Webster’s stuck up, old boring person’s original definition. Words evolve. Just read Shakespeare to find out. Anyways, what if the Redskins’ name was originally a term of endearment? This comes from Michael Tomasky:
The nickname had been the brainchild of George Preston Marshall, a laundry magnate and flamboyant showman who had bought the Boston Braves football team in 1932. As his second head coach, Marshall hired William “Lone Star” Dietz, a journeyman coach at the collegiate level whose mother was most likely a Sioux. It was in “honor” of Dietz, who coached the team for just two seasons and who at Marshall’s urging willingly put on war paint and Indian feathers before home games, that Marshall changed the team’s name to the Redskins. When Marshall, frustrated by Boston fans’ lack of support, moved the franchise to the nation’s capital in 1937, the coach was gone, but the team name stayed.
Tomasky doesn’t elaborate on his use of quotations. I’ll just “assume” he wasn’t quite sure of the real motive behind the naming. Either way, the name does have a genesis that fits my prior rant about intent. Marshall may have been a racist, but he may have also held Coach Dietz in high esteem. I suspect the two had a fairly collegial relationship, which indicates that the name Redskins indeed has an origin story filled with respect, not with hate.
Who cares, though? Well, Mike Florio does. I frequent ProFootballTalk because I’ve bailed the ESPN mothership. However, when I escape the sensationalist ESPN, I encounter the PC/NBC-owned ProFootball talk. For the media to push an agenda, it isn’t about propagating falsehoods. While that does happen on FOX, CNN, and MSNBC, it’s not the prominent driver in pushing said agenda. No. The real culprit: story selection, or media narrative. Florio obviously doesn’t like the Redskins name; thus, he will pick up on any story in which he finds parallel to his own contrived angst. I wonder if he’s ever read this article:
Robert Green, retired chief of the Patawomeck Tribe in Virginia, told the paper that he has no objection to the team’s name.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Green said. “About 98 percent of my tribe is Redskins fans, and it doesn’t offend them, either.”
Kevin Brown, chief of the Pamunkey Tribe of Virginia, said that his tribe generally feels the same way.
“I’m a Redskins fan, and I don’t think there’s any intention for (the nickname) to be derogatory. The majority of the people in my tribe don’t have a problem with it. There are a few who do, and we respect their feelings.”
It goes without saying that there will never be uniform support for any one person. Even Jesus, who is edged by President Lincoln, only has a 90 percent approval rating. No one’s goal should be to convince everyone. Rather, it should be a goal for everyone to stop caring about the menial issues that we create for ourselves. It’s exhausting. It’s stress and energy that could be spent dealing with real problems like raising children or working. But then again, when you’re job is to write about sports, you may try to make it out to be more important than it actually is, which is entertainment.