The Redskins — No Offense

October 10, 2013
Posted by Jay Livingston


The Redskins have been in the news lately  – on the front page of this morning’s Times, for example –  and not for their prowess on the gridiron (they are 1-3 on the season). It’s their name. Many native Americans find it offensive, understandably so.  “Redskins” was not a name they chose. It was a label invented by the European-Americans who took their land and slaughtered them in numbers that today would be considered genocide.

President Obama offered the most tepid hint of criticism of the name. He did not say they should change their name. He said that if he owned the team, he would “think about” changing the name. But that was enough for non-Indians to dismiss the idea as yet one more instance of “political correctness.”

Defenders of the name also argue that the name is not intended to be offensive,* and besides, a survey shows that most Americans are not bothered by it.  I would guess that most Americans also have no problem with the Cleveland Indians logo, another sports emblem that real Indians find offensive.
In response the National Congress of American Indians offers these possibilities.  The Cleveland cap is the real thing. The other two are imagined variations on the same theme.


The pro-Redskins arguments could also apply here. The New York Jews and San Francisco Chinamen and their logos are not intended to offend, and a survey would probably find a majority of Americans untroubled by these names and logos.  And those who do object are just victims of “the tyranny of political correctness.”  This last phrase comes from a tweet by Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, an African American.  His response seems to make all the more relevant the suggestion of years ago by Russell Means of the AIM: “Why don’t they call them The Washington Niggers?”

HT for the hats: Max

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* Football fans of a certain age may remember Washington’s running back John Riggins, who had a few good seasons but is most remembered for his comment at a 1985 National Press Club dinner. He was seated next to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and he was drunk. He passed out, slid to the floor, and slept  through Vice-President’s Bush’s speech. But before that, he told the justice, “Loosen up, Sandy baby. You’re too tight.” I’m sure his remark was not intended to give offense.

1 comment:

shari valentine said...

Great piece.

Those hats are a nice graphic. And they are in line with the Cleveland Indians motif.

However, in order to get synonymous on the Washington Redskins much more offensive monikers would need to be used.

Robert Griffin III might be okay with Russell Means suggestion, but, somehow, I doubt it. And I question whether he would think it fell into "the tyranny of political correctness".

Discrimination is often not "intended to offend". It is intended to demonstrate the power of one group over another. The "inferior" group is never supposed to be offended, merely to accept the facts as presented by the majority. And, not incidentally, to accept the power distribution that comes with those "facts".

Thanks for putting these ideas out there in such a straight up manner.