Let me ask you a serious question – what would you say if I told you that I was forming a new NFL franchise, and that I’d decided to call my club the Los Angeles Yellow Men? Further, what would you say, if you questioned me about the name, if I told you that I was simply paying homage to Asian people, honoring tradition, and that my use of “Yellow Men” was actually a very respectful thing?
Chances are some, if not most of you out there would look at me sideways. You might even call me a bigot to boot — and you’d be absolutely right to do so.
Yet Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and GM Bruce Allen … oh, excuse me – GM and new team president Bruce Allen, continue to reference “tradition” and “respecting the legacy” when they open their mouths to defend the continued use of “redskin” as the team’s nickname, something many people accept and has been defined in the dictionary as a racial slur.
But hey, at least Allen got a shiny new job title and a fatter paycheck for being Snyder’s mouthpiece and defending that position.
For years now, leaders of the Oneida Nation as well as various other Native American groups have been protesting and fighting the use of the slur “redskins” for Washington’s football team. Slowly, public awareness about this issue has risen, and the pressure to change the name has increased.
Just last week, fifty U.S. Senators signed a letter that was sent to Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, urging them to act, and to change the highly-offensive and racially-insensitive name. Predictably though, Snyder and Allen responded to that letter much in the same way they’ve responded to those people who have expressed their feeling and concern about the continued use (and vehement defense) of a racial slur – “deal with it.”
In Allen’s response to the letter from the Senate, he wrote:
“Our use of ‘Redskins’ as the name of our football team for more than eighty years has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans.”
No. Respectful would be actually listening to the millions of voices telling you that “redskin” is a hurtful, harmful, demeaning slur. Respectful would be realizing that as non-Native American white men, neither Snyder nor Allen has the right to tell actual Native Americans how they should feel or what they should think about the continued use of a racial epithet.
Respectful would be honoring the wishes of the Oneida Nation, the Red Cloud Indian School, and numerous other Native American organizations who are imploring Snyder, Allen, Goodell, and the NFL to drop what is an offensive and racially insensitive team nickname. Respectful would be showing actual reverence and honor for the legacy and traditions of Native American people, rather than simply patronizing them and attempting to placate them with well-funded foundations.
The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation may allow Snyder and Allen to pat themselves on the backs and sleep a little better at night, but most people with a lick of common sense see it for what it is – a bribe, a craven ploy to buy the perception that they are racially and culturally sensitive when they are, judging by their continued vigorous defense of the team’s name, anything but that.
Goodell recently praised NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for his swift, strong action against Los Angeles Clippers owner (for now, anyway) Donald Sterling, saying he “did the right thing.” It’s time that Goodell to show the courage of his convictions, and do the right thing himself by compelling Snyder to enter the 21st century and drop the racial slur from his team’s name.
If the Los Angeles Yellow Men is offensive, then why would the Washington Redskins be any less so?