Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

June 29, 2014

Column: From a fan of 46 years — the name Redskins must go

— The only constant in life is change. That statement was first written down around 2,500 years ago by a Greek philosopher named Heraclitus.

It’s still true. That hasn’t changed.

The NFL football team in Washing-ton has been known as the Redskins since 1933, when the former Boston Braves were coached by a Native American named Lone Star Dietz and played at Fenway Park.

Dietz lasted one year. The team’s name has lasted for 81.

Those days are numbered.

Times have changed. It is no longer acceptable in our American culture in 2014 to use a name that is considered derogatory by so many — Native American or not.

I have seen various historical attempts to note when and how the word “redskin” was first used. None of the explanations are at all pretty.

I have noted the wayward attempts of Redskins owner Dan Snyder to justify its continued use as a “tribute” to Native Americans.

He (or his public relations firm) established the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation in March to provide “genuine opportunities for Tribal communities.”

He said in a March story on the team’s website, “It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.”

He should heed his words, and do more than words and the creation of a foundation.

He must eat some of his previous words and change the name — or sell the team and let somebody else do it.

There are two good arguments I have heard lately. One asks if you would walk up to a group of Native Americans and call them by that name. The other can be summed up, “Why use a word that hurts some people’s feelings?” To put it in terms that may make sense to Snyder, it is bad public relations.

It is pertinent to note that I have been a fan of this ball team since 1968. Thanks to friends and family, I have at least half a dozen items of clothing, plus mugs and signs, with the name “Redskins” on them.

The team has an up-and-down history of success on the football field. It has a rabid corps of fans. It even has one of the more memorable fight songs in the National Football League, performed by its own “house band.”

The fans will have to get over the shock of a name change. Most will do so quickly. The vast majority of them will continue to support the team they have known for such a long time.

The next question will be, what name should replace the term “Redskins”? The names Capitals, Nationals and Wizards are already taken. The Washington Filibuster is too “inside the Beltway” for everyone except political wonks.

I briefly considered the Washington Monuments, but then decided upon a name that would reach out to a growing demographic in the greater Washington area — and all around this nation. It would take a situation that currently alienates some and turn it into a positive affirmation of acceptance.

Viva Washington!


Tom Bone is a Daily Telegraph sports writer and cartoonist. Contact him at tbone@bdtonline. com or on Twitter @BDTBone.

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