The Washington Redskins: What’s In A Name?

by Yesha Callahan

The Washington Redskins What's In A Name

For years there has been talk about changing the Washington Redskins name, due to the negative connotation it has. But for the past several months, the pressure has been put on the NFL to come to a consensus about the team’s name.

On May 13, 10 members of Congress sent a letter to Daniel Snyder, owner of the NFL’s Washington, D.C., franchise, urging him to change the name. The members of Congress included the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus Tom Cole (OK) and Betty McCollum (MN), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ), Gwen Moore (WI), Michael M. Honda (CA), Donna M. Christensen (VI), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Barbara Lee (CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), and Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (AS).

Their letter stated that,  “Native Americans throughout the country consider the R-word a racially, derogatory slur akin to the N-word among African Americans or the W-word among Latinos.  Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw widespread disapproval among the NFL’s fan base.  Yet the national coverage of Washington’s NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans”.

It also went on to say:

“The current Chairman and Chief of the Penobscot Nation, Chief Kirk Francis, recently stated in a joint statement that the [R-word] is ‘not just a racial slur or a derogatory term,’ but a painful ‘reminder of one of the most gruesome acts of . . . ethnic cleansing ever committed against the Penobscot people.’  The hunting and killing of Penobscot Indians like animals, as declared by Chief Francis, was ‘a most despicable and disgraceful act of genocide’…

“In this day and age, it is imperative that you uphold your moral responsibility to disavow the usage of racial slurs.  The usage of the [R-word] is especially harmful to Native American youth, tending to lower their sense of dignity and self-esteem.  It also diminishes feelings of community worth among the Native American tribes and dampens the aspirations of their people.

“We look forward to working with you to find a solution to this important matter.”

 A similar letter was also sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, FedEx President and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Smith (FedEx is a sponsor of Snyder’s franchise, and the team plays at FedExField), and the owners of the NFL’s other 31 clubs

This week, in response to the letter, Goodell defended the Washington Redskins’ nickname.

In his letter Goodell said:

“The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context. For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

But the members of congress from the May 13th letter aren’t buying it.  McCollum (D-Minn.) said Goodell’s letter was “another attempt to justify a racial slur on behalf of Dan Snyder and other NFL owners who appear to be only concerned with earning ever larger profits, even if it means exploiting a racist stereotype of Native Americans.”

Unfortunately these sentiments continue to fall on deaf ears when it comes to team owner, Dan Snyder.  This is what he had to say about a name change:



What’s your opinion on the team’s name? Do you think it should be changed?

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    I been said they should change the name. I will never understand how white men/people can say what is and isn’t offensive to non-whites.WTH????
    and for the record I am a fan of the team(washingtonian here) not the name though

  • JS

    If NBA teams can move cities and change names I don’t see why NFL teams can’t change names either. This all has to do with the $$$. Owners are thinking about loss in profits switching merchandise, re-branding stadiums, team uniforms, team airplane, etc. They obviously couldn’t give two shakes about being offensive.

  • Mademoiselle

    This is long overdue. I’m all for removal of human-descriptors created by white people. Call us by our names! (“Us” meaning non-whites)

  • Tonton Michel

    This shouldn’t even be debatable, the name is blatantly offensive and Snyder’s position is arrogant and dismissive. For years they came up with every type of excuse to hold on to the name, from tradition, business, not being offensive and so on. As a former redskin player once said on the topic, it doesn’t matter how we feel it matters how they, (natives), feel.

  • Marisa

    I graduated from St Johns University which for decades the teams were known as The St Johns Redmen, then they changed it and now our teams are called The Red Storm, so its possible to switch these names up. Rodger Goddell is a smart man which is why I’m not buying this crock of sh%t he’s selling about this name being about proud,diversity blah blah blah. No the name was Redskins came from an owner who was a notorious racist, matter of fact anybody notice the Cleveland Indians hats now only have C’s on them instead of the Indian their another one. Lets face it the Redskins are keeping their name just like my Atlanta Braves, Florida State Seminoles, the Kansas City Chiefs is because of money, big time dollars and they don’t want to give that up. While were on the subject the Braves and Florida State need to ditch that damn Tamahawk Chops while their at it.

  • Mademoiselle

    FSU is just like the Redskins. People have been complaining about the mascot & hand gestures for years, and it hasn’t changed yet. I think I remember at some point an effort to get all NCAA schools to drop Native American mascots and symbols. It hasn’t gotten much traction.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    time for some native american terrorists?

  • MommieDearest

    I’ve always been uncomfortable with the team’s name. It’s offensive. Period. I remember there was a big push in the mid-80′s to change the name, when it was met with resistance, it faded out. There have been small protests throughout the 90′s for a name change, including other sports with Native American themed team names. (During the 1991(?) World Series between the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves, Native Americans and others were protesting outside the stadium.)

    IMO, the Native Americans are the ONLY people who were shafted worse than black people in the United States. Their country was literally stolen from them, and they were killed off almost to the point of extinction. The USA needs to give them whatever they want. Changing the name of a football team is the LEAST that can be done.

  • Scott Adams

    Change it to the Mulattos. The Native Indian Tribe of the region was the Piscataway, probably not a good name.

  • Roderick Bateman

    Racist is a hate word. In the 60′s, anti-whites forced ALL and ONLY white countries to bring in millions of non-whites. Then anti-whites forced ALL and ONLY white people to “integrate” or face penalties for being “naziswhowantokill6millionjews.” Now anti-whites are praising and counting down the days till ALL and ONLY white children are minorities and extinct EVERYWHERE. That makes it genocide. “Anti-racist” is a codeword for anti-white.

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