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Opinions Sports — 28 October 2013

By Geoffrey Knight

As I sat on my couch watching the clock hit triple zeroes in the Washington Redskins (2-5, 1-3 away) 45 to 21 loss to the Denver Broncos (7-1, 5-0 home), I lost what little hope I had left for the ‘Skins’ season.

Washington squandered an early 21 to seven lead on the road, as the Broncos put up the final 38 points in the game.  As an avid Redskins fan, the loss was painful, especially considering the potential they had coming into the season.

Unfortunately, the Redskins’ pathetic play on the field is not the most disappointing representation of the team.  At least not for me.

The Washington Redskins, as well as other professional and amateur sports teams with names and mascots based on indigenous people, are in the midst of an on going controversy regarding their name.

Teams with such names and mascots are being pressured to change their names because they are seen as offensive to the people they represent.  Recently, in a subtle, yet powerful statement, Peter King wrote a 2,000+ word article for Sports Illustrated about the Redskins without referring to them as such anywhere in the article.

Despite concerns regarding the offensive nature of the storied football team name, Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, has shown little interest in changing the team name.  In an article featured on ESPN.com, Snyder discussed his reasons for leaving the name as is.

“It was never a label, it was, and continues to be a badge of honor,” Snyder said.

Snyder also wrote a letter to fans regarding the team name.

“I’ve listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name,” Snyder wrote. “But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too.”

I am an avid sports fan, and the Redskins are my favorite team.  I think I can speak for sporting fans everywhere when I say that tradition is an important aspect of sports.  There is a special kind of excitement that comes with donning your favorite team’s colors on Sundays and Mondays.

But, in no way should tradition ever come before moral obligation.  Sporting events are meant for people to come together and bond over their shared love for their favorite teams.  That type of bond, however, should only come at the expense of rival fans, not an entire ethnic group.

There are teams that have names that represent indigenous people that are not seen as offensive.

The Central Michigan Chippewas are named after the Saginaw, Michigan tribe.  The university has an amicable relationship with the Chippewas, who have given their consent to the name.  Central Michigan’s logo is known as the “Flying C,” and it is not offensive to the local tribe.

Other teams, like the Redskins, do not have much of an excuse, as their team names are offensive to an entire race without any sort of consent.

I love the traditions and legacies that come with sports, and, as such, I really do not like change.  Having said that, exceptions must be made for cases such as this.

I will gladly welcome a team name change, even if it means that one of my favorite sporting teams loses its historic identity.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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About Author

Geoffrey is a senior communication studies major and religious studies minor from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has a passion for sports journalism.

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