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What’s in a Name?


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By: Emily Burke

Sentry Staff Reporter

For most Washingtonians, the colors burgundy and gold and the face of a Native American mean only one thing, the Redskins. These are the team colors and logo of Washington, D.C.’s football team, The Washington Redskins. Unexpectedly, this household name is causing an uproar across the nation. Washington’s football team has been called the Redskins for 80 years, but this name might not be around for much longer because many people are demanding that the name be changed because it is offensive to Native Americans. Although many devoted Redskins fans want to stay true to tradition and keep the name, many Native American groups are protesting, calling the name disrespectful and a racial slur. The Oneida Indian Nation is at the forefront of these protests. A campaign called “Change the Mascot” was set in motion in September.

“No matter what the history of something is, if it is offending people, then it is time to change it,” representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, Ray Halbritter explained.

Even President Barack Obama has expressed an opinion on this controversial issue. He said that if a name is offensive, it should be changed immediately.

President Obama remarked that if he were the owner of the Redskins he would “think about changing (the name).”

National Football League (NFL) Commissioner  Roger Goodell also expressed a willingness to change the name and mascot of the Redskins. Goodell wants to maintain a positive image of the team for people of all backgrounds. The NFL has agreed to meet with leaders of the Oneida Indian Nation, but Redskins owner Dan Snyder has indicated that he will not consider changing the team name. The heated debate continues without a clear resolution in sight.

Junior Robby Langsam still supports the classic Redskins name. Photo by Rachel Finley

Junior Robby Langsam advertises his support for the Washington Redskins.
Photo by Rachel Finley

Although many people have conflicting feelings about the issue, sophomore Zane Killgo has a definite opinion about the name change.

“I personally do not want (the name) to be changed because the Redskins is a historic name and it has been around for years,” said Killgo.

Killgo explains that the name “Redskins” has been around for such a long time that it would not be fair to change it now. He believes that the name is iconic rather than offensive or racist.

“I have Native American friends who do not find (the name) offensive at all,” said Killgo.

When asked to suggest some ideas for a new name for the Redskins, Killgo answered seriously, “the Redskins.”

Killgo, laughing, then followed up this comment by saying that if it is necessary to change the Redskins’ name, then it should represent the city of Washington D.C. in some way.

Like Killgo, junior Robert Sondheim does not think the team should change their name.

“I think the Redskins slur is offensive but I do not think the name should be changed because it has been a long time since people have used it as a slur,” explains Sondheim.

If the team does change their name, Sondheim has a suggestion, but he provides yet another good reason to stick with the Redskins.

“As an alternate name, I would suggest the Washington Warriors. I do not believe it should be changed. (The fans) will riot like crazy,” warns Sondheim.

Sophomore Sophie Moran takes the opposite view.

“I think (the name) is offensive because it is a derogatory term for Native Americans. I think it could be upsetting to people of that background,” said Moran.

Moran believes that the name should be changed as soon as possible, but she realizes that not everyone will be happy about the change.

“I think some fans will be very upset, but I think the Native American population will be very supportive of the change,” said Moran.

When asked to provide some alternative names, Moran decided to stay with the Native American theme.

“They could name them after a local tribe like the Powhatan,” said Moran.

Moran believes that the name change will take a significant amount of time and effort, but that the change would be worth it.

“I think once one thing starts to change, then a sort of revolution will happen. A lot of things will change for the better.”

In support of keeping the name, AP World History teacher Mr. McCabe provides a historical perspective on why the Redskins name is not offensive.

“(Redskins’) owner, Dan Snyder, actually produced a letter last week in which he explained the history of the name and how when the name was originally the Boston Braves it was a Native American coach who suggested that (they) become the Redskins and suggested that logo also,” explains McCabe.

A season ticket holder, McCabe would remain a loyal fan of the team even if the Redskins go by another name.

“A name change would not change how I feel about the team because it is still the same players that I have a lot of respect for. I would not change my favorite team just because they changed their name,” says McCabe.

Like Sondheim, McCabe thinks Redskins fans would not be so accommodating.

“I think that the fans would go absolutely nuts. I think that there would be a loss in ticket sales,” predicts McCabe.

Redskins fans may soon be making room in their closets for new jerseys. But the question remains, would the Redskins by any other name smell as sweet?

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What’s in a Name?