“A Little R&R on Sports” is the only network syndicated sports radio show with co-hosts of two different generations. This makes for lively exchanges, good-natured barbs and friendly disagreement on a great many subjects.
However, there is absolutely no disagreement between my co-host Larry Robinson and me on the question of whether or not Washington’s National Football League team should change their nickname. They should. No diggity, no doubt (Is that still current?).
My young friend is incredulously incensed that a racist moniker like “Redskins” has been perpetuated, tolerated and celebrated by fans of all races lo these many years. Fans like me because, in the interest of full disclosure, they were one of my favorite teams.
True to his generation, Larry wants the name changed, immediately. Actually he’s right, especially by today’s standards. But that name is from a place and time when one exclusive group set the standards.
For centuries, white men named, defined and ratified everything and everybody in their environment. Indigenous peoples of the Americas became known as “Indios” (Indians) after Christopher “Wrong Way” Columbus wound up in the Caribbean trying to find India. Too stubborn to ask anyone where he was and far too arrogant to ask the people he had “discovered” who they were, he ratified his mistake by redefining and renaming the environment. So, since he meant to go to India, the people became Indians and those islands became the West Indies.
It’s hard to imagine life for Native Americans in 1932 when Washington’s football team began. In the midst of the Great Depression, having had your ancestors slaughtered, your land stolen, your families imprisoned on reservations and while all manner of mistreatment to your people runs rampant, how in the world could you give a damn about what a bunch of white guys playing a crazy, unfamiliar game decide to call themselves? Back then, for Native Americans and African Americans alike, it was less about what white people called you and all about their actions toward you.
White privilege is intricately ingrained and has remained totally saturated into the fabric of American culture for hundreds of years and it’s not about to make a fast retreat. The latest ESPN poll of nearly 200,000 Americans shows that 65 percent oppose changing the name. So, this may take awhile because change is hard and it’s not a lot of folk’s friend.
As we discussed this issue during last weekend’s show, Larry asked how any self-respecting African American could be like Aldolfo Birch, the NFL’s Sr. VP of Government Affairs, and say that the team name “is not a slur.” His point is that, of all people, black folks should bristle when they witness the ethnic denigration of another race of people.
You’re right again Larry. But you know what? Maybe there’s an analogy Redskins’ majority owner Dan Snyder can better understand.
“Yo Dan, what if roles were reversed and a group of Native Americans owned the team and called them the Washington Rednecks or how about the Washington Crackers? Absolutely no slur intended of course, because all they would be doing is following and perpetuating the back-in-the-day cultural protocol of stereotypically identifying people based on race, complexion or color. Would that be a problem for you?”
In that scenario, it’s a question that only Dan and other Caucasians could answer. The same is true with Native Americans. They have expressed in no uncertain terms that “Redskins” is offensive to them. Enough said. It doesn’t matter what you intended to communicate or what you meant to portray or that you were misunderstood or how much money you’re suddenly dropping into Native American charities. As a matter human decency, if you are doing something that causes offense, discomfort or hurt to another human being…you stop it.
So Dan, quit messing around. This is one you will not win. Change the damn name…soon.
(“A Little R&R On Sports” is a nationally syndicated radio show available on hundreds of radio stations and digital platforms. Stream “R&R” live on Saturdays at 11 a.m. EDT/10 a.m. CDT on sportsbyline.com or on ranronsports.com anytime. In Memphis, tune in Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. on AM 790 ESPN Radio.)