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America’s capital football team profits from controversial logo

 There is controversy over the origin of the term “redskin.”  Most agree that it was coined by settlers in reference to the skin color of Native Americans, but some experts note that term became a positive reflection of the early relationship between settlers and natives.

Regardless of the initial connotation, however, the term became undoubtedly more and more derogatory.  “Redskin” became associated with “indecent” or “deceitful,” or condescending at best when used in a positive sense i.e. “noble redskin”.

Up to and including the Western movie era, “redskin” remained a commonly used demeaning term in daily vernacular as well as various forms of media.

Today, the term is widely considered an inappropriate slur and is hardly used, two notable exceptions being both overt racists and the professional football franchise in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Redskins have been known as such since 1933, when the NFL’s Boston Braves changed their name in order to avoid being confused with the baseball team.

Since then, the team has faced major scrutiny regarding their name and its racial implications.

Following their victory in Super Bowl XXII, owner Jack Kent Cooker received numerous letters from Native Americans encouraging him to rename the team.

At the 1992 Super Bowl in Minnesota between the Redskins and Buffalo Bills, members of the large Native American population voiced their anger over the team’s name in the form of a protest including signs reading “We are not Mascots” or “Promote Sports not Racism.”

In 1999, the U.S. Patent and Trademark office cancelled federal trademarks of the Redskins’ name on the grounds that it may disparage Native Americans.  However, the owners immediately appealed the PTO’s decision to a district court in the District of Columbia and it was overturned due to “insufficient evidence of disparagement.”

While there may have been “insufficient” evidence in that particular court case, there is plenty of evidence indicating that large portions of the Native American population find the name Redskins to be offensive.

They have been vocal in the past and continue  to  be so today about their discontent concerning the institutionalization of racial slur within professional football.

Even amidst data from questionable surveys on the issue having been cited as saying that a large percentage of Native Americans are not offended by the name, there clearly remains a substantial segment that is affected enough to voice its opinions.

The arguments to keep the name simply aren’t convincing.  Excessive political correctness isn’t the culprit, as many might argue.

What we’re dealing with is an overtly offensive term being promoted by the extravagance of NFL football on a weekly basis through media outlets across the country.

History is important, but 80 years of history isn’t a sufficient reason for a franchise to retain a moniker that is soaked in centuries of prejudice.

It is understood that changing something that has existed for decades can be difficult; any enthusiastic sports fan would be devastated if their most beloved team was forced to change its identity completely.

Yet this is a change that when viewed objectively, is difficult against which to argue. For the NFL, Roger Goodell and Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s refusal to change the team’s name signifies a continual and conscious decision to offend an ethnic minority.

Ignoring the feelings of these people in order to retain a trademark is not only insensitive and stubborn but selfish as well.  Unfortunately, the NFL as a business isn’t one to be intimidated.

Its revenue will be unhurt by any boycott attempt in the name of a Redskins name change, and fans will continue to pour into FedEx field on Sundays.

In order for anything to actually be done about the issue, a change of heart needs to occur at the top.

Hopefully soon Goodell and other NFL executives will understand that a term which may not seem offensive to them yet can still produce harmful side effects and elicit memories of a dark and discriminatory history—a history our country shouldn’t forget, but certainly shouldn’t glorify.

 Joey Versen is a senior political science and Arab & Islamic studies major from Scottsdale, Ariz. He can be reached at jverse01@villanova.edu. 

 
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