Before any of my close peers and colleagues start a frenzy, I’ll be the first to admit that my allegiances do in fact lie with the rival Philadelphia Eagles. But I can assure you as readers that my stance on this specific issue is one that maintains objectivity and holds no bias. Football is an important cultural pastime, but not as important as the preservation of a demographic of people whose oppression is being undermined.
The social landscape of this country is evolving. Over the past decade we have seen an African-American take office, same-sex marriage bans deemed unconstitutional, and more progressive topics such as abortion and gun rights take precedence in the national discussion. These issues are only gaining momentum, and where the issue of equality is concerned we seem to be ignoring a major cultural populace within these United States.
It took a full-fledged Civil Rights movement to empower African-Americans with the freedoms and opportunities they were denied for almost 200 years. The Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps during World War II, and they too have broken the shell of government-backed racism that they involuntarily endured.
What will it take for us to begin treating Native Americans with the same equalities and recognition that we’ve afforded other minority groups who were once oppressed by our nation?
I am not a legislator nor am I a historian. I can not tell you where this issue started nor where it will end and I am certainly not an expert on the relations between the Native American community and the United States government. I am however an aspiring journalist with the platform and means to share my opinion on an issue I believe too many are overlooking, so here goes.
Sports are a part of the everyday conversation. Men banter tirelessly about them during their lunch break at the office; Kids talk about them on the bus to and from school everyday; Women talk about the most handsome player in the league who happens to be dating that actress they love. You can say what you want about sports as far as whether you like them personally, but you can not ignore their presence in today’s society.
I wish there wore a more suitable quote than one from Spiderman, but “with great power comes great responsibility.” Sports leagues and their respective clubs have been gifted the ability to make a fortune off of professional athletes. No one can fault them, the demand is there and they’re entitled to the pursuit of financial success as much as you and I are. But they are also burdened with the opportunity to positively influence social ideology in every household. Major sports leagues and their teams should embrace the need to influence and affect society just as much as they reflect it.
Sports play a pivotal role in youth development and it is contradictory to preach acceptance and tolerance in schools, while simultaneously endorsing students’ ability to root for teams whose names do not embody those values.
There are plenty of professional team names in the sports universe that can be interpreted as insulting to a minority group of people, but for the purpose of this article I’ll stick to those that refer to the Native American community. The Golden State Warriors, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, the list goes on. The previously mentioned names promote positive ideals of honor and courage, and as a result these teams do not face the same scrutiny as others.
That is because none of those names are as blatantly disrespectful as the Washington Redskins.
RED. SKIN. What does Redskin promote? The recognition of an entire population by the color of its skin. I know the Caucasian community — with exception to ignorant white supremacists — wouldn’t take kindly to a team known as the “whiteskins,” and I’d bet my career that the African-American community is fed up with being categorized by its skin color as well. No amount of community service or efforts to help grow the Native American community will take away from the fact that this name is offensive and outdated, nothing more and nothing less.
This is a call for change in Washington. Team owner Daniel Snyder (pictured right) has said repeatedly that he will not change the name, adding to the list of reasons why I as a sports fan in general am continuously disappointed by his way of doing business.
The sense of invulnerability and elitism plaguing some of the professional sports ownership groups has never felt more relevant than when Snyder vehemently insists he will not change this team’s name. A storied franchise is a still a storied franchise no matter what you call it, and Snyder needs to take action and rebrand the most offensively named franchise in all of sports.