Assoc. Sports Editor
Did you see the game between the Redskins and Negros last Sunday?
There has lately been a resurgence of controversy over the Washington Redskins’ team name after President Barack Obama spoke out about it, saying that he would entertain the thought of changing it. The term, Redskin, which is viewed as a derogatory term for the dark skin of Native Americans, has received its share of backlash in the month of October, and may not be seen for much longer on the red and yellow Washington football jerseys.
Since I am not Native American, nor am I an expert on their history, I asked multicultural education professor Dr. Kazi Hossain to weigh in on the topic. He says, people, indeed, have a reason to be up-in-arms about this dilemma.
“People have every right to be upset about the name,” he said. “Just like we should not use the term, ‘Negro,’ because it is derogatory for African-Americans, we also should not use the term ‘Redskin.’”
So, where did it come from in the first place?
Well, in 1933, the Boston Herald reported that the Boston Braves would be switching monikers to the Redskins, to pay tribute to their supposed Sioux-blooded coach, Lone Star Dietz. The change was also to help distinguish themselves from Major League Baseball’s Boston Braves. In 1967, the name “Washington Redskins”, along with their logo – a picture of a Native American – was officially registered.
Many congressmen, columnists and commentators fueled the fire right off the bat, trying to melt away the defamatory title. But, now, the blaze is higher than ever.
Notable sportscaster Bob Costas called the team’s name a “slur,” and said it should be taken as an insult to Native Americans across the nation. The Washington Post debunked the name in its editorial board and vowed to discontinue its usage. Sports Illustrated’s Larry King also hopped on the bandwagon to halt the discrimination by eliminating it from his expansive vocabulary.
The media’s call for action was the impetus for the Commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), Roger Goodell, to try and open the ears of Washington’s head honchos and listen to the outcry that has overwhelmed the sports world.
Hossain agrees that Goodell’s call for action was necessary.
“I certainly would urge the NFL to change the name,” he said. “The name change would certainly boost the respect, not only from Native Americans, but also from many non-Native Americans who believe in respecting the cultural … values of all groups.”
Outstretching his suggestion box to Goodell and Washington’s owner, Daniel Snyder, Hossain recommended that they “ask the public for … a name for the team and develop some kind of competition.”
Hossain, an American citizen who emigrated from Bangladesh over 20 years ago, knows all about prejudice and the ignorance of others toward different ethnicities.
“As a Muslim, I certainly feel that people do make derogatory comments about my religion,” he said. “After September 11th [of 2001], many people identified Muslims as terrorists.”
After 9/11, Americans suddenly had this negative, media-driven image of Arabs. They envisioned them all to be turbin- and beard-wearing terrorists who didn’t believe women should show off their skin, he said.
This just goes to show that ignorance is quite the opposite of bliss; it yields circumstances that are irrevocable.
“The Native Americans have lost everything since the arrival of Columbus to this land. They have been pushed into various reservations,” Hossain said. “All they have left are their cultural and religious values and beliefs.”
What these experts are saying is that we can no longer live in the unknown when it comes to different races. Simply not knowing is no excuse for an insulting name to be in use for this long. Goodell, NFL officials and Snyder should band together and figure out an escape plan from their Redskins’ controversy.
Yet, Snyder may not be as gung-ho as everybody else seems to be.
“We’ll never change the name,” Snyder told USA Today in a staunch response to the media’s hubbub that originally spurred from Obama’s comments. “It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps.”
Hossain, albeit agreeing with the Redskin’s adamant owner about the “simple” solution, disagrees with Snyder’s overall thinking. He believes that all Native Americans wish for one thing and one thing only, even after their poor treatment throughout the annexation of their land.
“All they probably ask from the rest of the population,” Hossain insisted, “is some respect.”