Editorial: Time to make the name change
Dan Snyder, owner of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins, has long resisted changing the team’s name.
He has argued that it isn’t meant to be racially insensitive — though a number of Native American tribes have officially disagreed.
Confusingly, a number of nationwide surveys show that Native Americans themselves are deeply divided over the matter. That is mainly, they say, because any term that describes them in sweeping terms — be it “Native American,” “Indian” or “Amerindian” — fails to recognize their broad diversity. Navajo are Navajo ... Commanches are Commanches ... and many resent attempts to lump them in under any wide label.
And, in fact, many reservation schools use the name “redskins” for their team.
But attempts to poll Native Americans about their attitude toward the name have run afoul of the difficulty of identifying respondents as true representatives of their ethnic origin.
Snyder, for his part, says that he wants to keep the name is because of “tradition.”
The U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board revoked six registered trademarks owned by the team as part of a ruling that found the name disparages Native Americans. What this means — depending on another appeal or a stay of the ruling by a judge — is that others could begin marketing their own Redskins stuff, thus eating into the money Snyder gets through merchandise. In other words, it can make it harder for Snyder to profit off the name.
Given the fortunes of the team in recent years, maybe losing more money on the team because of its nickname doesn’t mean anything to Snyder. He’s still got his valued “tradition.” But an interpretation of “tradition” is a funny thing.
Washington’s football team actually got its start in Boston in 1932, with a team named the Braves. The owner at the time, George Preston Marshall, however, changed the name to the Redskins shortly thereafter, when he moved the team to Fenway Park. A couple of years later, in 1937, Marshall left Boston for what he saw as the greener pastures of the nation’s capital and took the team with him.
So hometown fans don’t really count as part of the tradition ... but the name does?
Sports teams with less reason to change their names have done so over the years. Before they were the New York Yankees, they were the Highlanders. Houston’s baseball team was nicknamed the Colt 45s before changing to the Astros — and the Red Sox started life as the Boston Beaneaters.
Cities can change. Names can change, too.
It’s fascinating to see that more than 14 years after the controversy surrounding the decision by Frontier Regional High School to drop the Redskins moniker because of the racial connotations, the owner of the Washington franchise still clings to this nickname.
Snyder should get with the times and change the name. He’d be starting a new tradition — one of doing the right thing.