National Football League Racist Ways Must End

National Football League NFL Washington Redskins
It is an issue that has been brought up by many groups and activists for over a decade, and many feel that the National Football League (NFL) has done little more than turn a blind eye and made excuses. With tolerance being the new image that the NFL is trying to put on itself, it is an issue that cannot be ignored any longer. Public opinion is shifting, and the Washington Redskins are being pressured to change their name to put an end to what many are calling the National Football League’s racist ways.

The appeal to change the name of the Washington Redskins received a big boost on Monday, as two U.S. senators sent a letter to the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, demanding he announce support for a name change. The senators, Maria Cantwell and Bob Cole, also put pressure on the league, by claiming they would “definitely” look at the league’s tax-exempt status. The league, due to some brilliant legal shenanigans, is classified as a “non-profit organization,” and thus receives a tax-exempt status as such. Senator Cantwell, in an interview with the New York Times, said the league is getting tax breaks, but is “embracing and encouraging the use of a racial slur.”

The original meaning of the word “redskin” has been debated since the word became considered controversial. Ives Goddard, a senior linguist at the Smithsonian Institute, argues that the word “redskin” came into being as a way for Native Americans to distinguish themselves from the white invaders on their land. Goddard says the first use of the word “redskin” in print came from an Native American chief trying to negotiate peace, asking “all red skins and white skins” to find an accusation that had been lobbed at him. However, regardless of the origins, the word’s use today is one that most feel can only be perceived as racist; outside of the National Football League, that is.

The Redskins owner, Dan Snyder, has long remained firm in his refusal to change the name of the team. In a letter to the fans, he claims the name is a symbol of “strength, courage, pride and respect,” embodied in the organization and the Native Americans it gets its name from. He argues that because the original Redskins team had four Native American players and a Native American coach, the name is a badge of honor, not a label. This past year has seen him face increasing pressure against that stance. In May, Senator Cole and nine other members of Congress sent letters to Roger Goodell, the 32 team owners in the National Football League and the Fedex company, a sponsor for the Redskins, urging the change in the team’s name. This same group introduced a bill to remove the federal trademark off the Redskin name in March of the same year. Last October, President Obama weighed in on the controversy, saying that he would “think about changing” the name if he owned the team.

The longer this controversy drags out, the worse the Redskins organization and the NFL look. In today’s society, intolerance is increasingly criticized, not glorified. The NFL has another big test in tolerance coming up, as an upcoming draft pick, Michael Sam, recently revealed that he is homosexual. It is big news for the league, and many people in various organizations have stated Sam’s sexual orientation will not be an issue. The league, however, will find it difficult to pick and choose what issues they want to be tolerant about and which ones they can throw to the side.

The organization was formed in 1932, when it was called the Boston Braves. The name was changed to the Boston Redskins the following year. Change is not always good. Public opinion says that it is time for the name to change yet again. For over 80 years, the league has ignored the offensive nature of the name of one of their teams. It is unlikely to be ignored for much longer. The National Football League may soon find that it must take a stand, or be defined as tolerant of insensitive, even racist ways.

Opinion by Jonathan Gardner

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9 Responses to "National Football League Racist Ways Must End"

  1. Jason Adams   February 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    “Redskin” as a mascot name is offensive. I say that as a black man who cringes at the thought of a much maligned group of Americans being exploited for the financial gain of a white man in Dan Snyder. I know plenty of black players have and will get paid by the Redskins to the tune of millions of dollars, but they pale in comparison to the billions Snyder will make, and they have no control over the team nickname. If the team name were “Blackskins” or “Yellowskins” or even “Whiteskins” it would be equally offensive.

    • Bill D   February 12, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      It’s offensive because you deem it so? Do you find “Fighting Irish” equaly offensive? (for the record, I’m first generation Irish on my mother’s side and I don’t). How ’bout Browns? Buccaneers? Patriots? Cowboys?
      Would it be ok if Dan Snyder were black? Or American Indian? Or does it only make a difference that he, as the owner, makes more than his employees, who are predominantly black? You seem to have more issue with wh

  2. Felix J   February 12, 2014 at 10:12 am

    todays society is so weak and this article is proof of that. I am Native American, I talk with a lot of other tribal members about this renaming B-S and in no way do we see this as “racist.” Just leave it alone and move on.

  3. Joe Sandiego   February 12, 2014 at 8:29 am

    Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. That is what we all learned in Kindergarten. Sometimes I am called a Gringo, but that doesn’t offend me, because the word in old spanish means, a person of light skin. That’s me. Negro is Latin for Black. WOP refers to a person without papers. The descriptive terms are not derogatory unless you are ashamed of reality. I am also labeled Caucasian, but I am not from the Caucaus Mountains. There is no term that will ever satisfy someone with a victim mentality, they will even be offended if you call them a victim.

    I am Irish, but not offended by the Fighting Irish of Norte Dame. We need to celebrate our differences. We are not all the same. Be proud of your skin color, be proud of your race, and your sex. Don’t worry about the words, worry about your pride in yourself. If you are proud to be brown skinned, if someone says, “you have brown skin” it will not offend you.

  4. John C. Adams   February 12, 2014 at 8:06 am

    The anti-liberal, anti-political correctness rants by bigoted right-wingers notwithstanding, there is significant historical data of Native Americans themselves having lobbied for the name to be changed as far back as 1937 – when then owner George Preston Marshall moved the team from Boston to Washington. Native leaders advised Marshall that keeping the name would be the same insult to them as calling them the “Washington N***ers” would be to African Americans. Turn the calendar forward to the 1960’s and the NFL itself had to pressure Marshall (who was widely known to be a racist) to stop being the last holdout for integration and allow black players on his team. Future Hall of famer Bobby Mitchell joined the team in 1962. What the bigots who are so outraged at the very idea of changing the name need to understand is that just because they claim to have native heritage and also claim not to be offended by the term does not mean they speak for all Native Americans – and certainly not for the sensibilities of all decent Americans.

    • Bill D   February 12, 2014 at 7:16 pm

      And the anti-conservative, politically correct rants of equally bigoted left-wingers notwithstanding, presuming who is a “decent” American is condescension of the highest level, especially in the context of the interpretation of words and speaking on behalf of a huge and diverse group of people (the various nations of American Indians). The tone and meaning of words change rather quickly in our dynamic language. It was not long ago that “Colored” and “Negro” were the *preferred* terms for black Americans, yet today they are considered, widely to be out of date at the very least (ironically “people of color” has gained increased use).

  5. Greg S   February 12, 2014 at 6:12 am

    “In today’s society, intolerance is increasingly criticized, not glorified.”

    I laughed out loud at this. This opinion column is a perfect example of a media member using intolerance as a battering ram. Out of all of the reasons to revisit the tax-exempt status of the NFL two senators not liking the logo of one team is what put that in motion? We should all be very concerned that two people of such limited mental capacity are operating (relatively speaking) in our Senate right now. There is nothing insensitive about the Redskin brand, it shows a warrior and chief in full headdress, not only is that image not insensitive it is an American icon and I for one don’t ever want to see that removed from our country.

    I’d have far more respect for the self-styled defenders of all that is diverse and inclusive if they went after images that are truly offensive. Chief Wahoo in Cleveland actually is insensitive but these PC “do-gooders” will never go after it. You know why? No one outside of north-central Ohio cares about the Indians so there’s no media attention or cache to be gained.

    I find it endlessly amusing that some people think the way to combat “racism” is to push for the removal of emblems depicting those who are “other than white”.

  6. William Wheeler   February 12, 2014 at 12:55 am

    This Authors perception of the Indian peoples of this nation as a weak and insulted race is truly scewed of a ultra liberal self defacator. My family has deep roots in American Native (Black Foot Indian tribe on my grandmothers side) culture and not one of them have ever seen the term WE USED to define ourselves as offensive. Redskin is not a racial slur, Only an idiot self conscience coward would think so. These liberals are so demeaning in more offensive ways in taking a position like this then the name itself. There is NO OFFENSE in the use of the name redskin. NONE! It is a tradition and a frankly no more offensive then saying Indian Native or American. Which we also are. Indeed American Indians were here before the formation of this nation and we will be here after its fall. Your Political correct philosophy is nonsense in this world where ANY WORD in the dictionary can be perverted into a slur of some kind if we so choose to do so. Liberal media is blowing this up into a frenzy Not the native peoples. More of the garbage Democrat philosophy that THEY must protect us cause were unable to do so ourselves. THAT is the most insulting thing 50 times over any name one could possibly call us.

  7. Bill D   February 11, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    “the word’s use today is one that most feel can only be perceived as racist; outside of the National Football League” I’m not in the NFL and I don’t find it “racist”. How does the author define the word? Does he confuse it with the word “racial”?


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