Washington Redskins Likely To Face Name Change Protests All Season

By James Williams
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins will be facing the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the second game of the 2013 football season, but there will be a side issue playing out in the parking lot of Lambeau Field. There will be a name change protest outside a gate that will draw both a crowd and no doubt a great deal of media.

The Oneida Indian Nation is vowing to take a campaign to every city that Washington’s pro football team will visit this season, protesting that the name is a “racial slur”. Packers fans entering Lambeau Field through the Oneida Nation Gate will be confronted by a protest against the use of the Redskins mascot and logo.

The campaign against the name has been stepped up this week with a new radio advertisement and TV spots, as well as a website. The spots will be broadcast nationally starting in a few weeks in an attempt to gain more support.

We know that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has vowed never to change the name, but never is a word that might be retracted in the not too distant future. This week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league and team officials “need to be listening” to the growing calls for a name change.

Goodell did say that the ultimate choice would be up to Snyder — it is his team and he is the only one that has the power to change the name. Snyder is not a bad guy, and he and his wife do  a number of charitable things for the greater Washington community. That said, it is possible that Snyder could learn a great deal from another former Washington sports owner.

The late Abe Pollin, who owned the Washington Bullets and the Washington Capitals, chose to change the basketball team’s name to the Washington Wizards because of the violent connotation that the word bullet has. I must tell you that personally, I am uncomfortable with the name and no matter how you look at it, the bottom line is that it is a racial slur.

If anyone looks the definition of the word up in Webster’s Dictionary, they will see the following definition:

“Redskin” is a racial descriptor for Native Americans, that is “usually offensive”, “disparaging”, “insulting”, “taboo” and is avoided in public usage with the exception of its continued use as a name for sports teams.

Really, it’s 2013 and we going to use this word as the banner of our favorite sports team? Living in Washington, I know how much the team is revered and followed. I know that every where I look, I see the burgundy and gold worn proudly by the Washington fans.

These are wonderful people without racial prejudice, and feel that the term Redskins is hurting no one. But at some point, Snyder will have address the issue. I for one will no longer address the team by their NFL nickname. From now on, as you read my stories, they will be called the Washington football team.

Two of my fellow writers and friends, Christine Brennan of USA TODAY Sports and Peter King of Sports Illustrated (among a number of other outlets) are choosing not to use the team name, so at least I am in good company.

I do this because I feel that it is the right thing to do. I begrudge no one that continues to use the team name, and I will not use my space here to push Mr. Snyder to change the team’s name — that is something he will have to decide, and for the time being, it seems he has made that choice.

I am a fan of the Washington football franchise and will continue to be after this column. To be clear, this not a protest; it is a choice to not use the name of a team, the same way that I try to refrain from using the sponsors’ names when writing about stadiums.

So I will write about Washington taking on Green Bay this week in the NFL. You all have the choice to do whatever you wish as either a fan or a fellow journalist.

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