In life and even more so in sports, we are often blinded by tradition.
The same kind of logic that kept white and black Americans from sharing the same schools, and still prevents woman from earning equal pay as their male counterparts, is currently extending its ugly tentacles upon the sports world, as is evident by the Washington Redskins name controversy. When we enter into the world of sports passion plays a big part, so it’s understandable that many fans of the Washington professional football team, as well as fans around the NFL, do not quite like the idea of changing the Redskins name. Usually when the subject is broached we here words like “tradition” and “honor” which are really just smoke and mirrors for an owner and an organization that continually refuse to do the right thing.
When I was younger I witnessed this first hand when my local college team St. John’s had to change their name from the St. John’s Redmen, to the St. John’s Redstorm. And you know what? The sky did not fall, and the sun still rose.
Even before it became the hot topic that it is today I have always been bothered by the Redskins name. Not because I am an American Indian, because I am not. Actually when I think about it I cannot even be sure that I know anyone who has Native American heritage.
Which is exactly why the name “Redskins” has always rubbed me the wrong way.
We like to act in our society like we are all equal; if you’ve ever opened your eyes you know this is not true. Whenever we see a video of a child being bullied, or a young girl in some far away country being denied an education simply because of her gender we scream and shout until justice is served. So why do we continue to ignore our own country men, and turn our noses up at something that clearly sends the wrong message?
Is it because unless you live in a few select locations you probably never see American Indians and are not exposed to their culture? Can anyone in their right mind really make the case that it’s ok that we continue to marginalize and disrespect a minority group simply because their numbers are not great in terms of relative population? The answer of course is no way, which is what makes the Redskins name even more of a black eye to the sport of football. Yet we continue to bury our heads in the sand and ignore this glaring truth.
Whatever the reason for our accepted insensitivities are, there is one tribe in upstate New York that has had enough, and is doing all they can to do something about it.
The New York based Oneida Indian Nation said they will run ads on radio stations in Washington before the team hosts the Philadelphia Eagles in its season opener Monday night. In the ad, Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should “stand up to bigotry” by denouncing “the racial slur” in the team’s name.
“We do not deserve to be called redskins,” the Oneida leader says in the ad. “We deserve to be treated as what we are — Americans.”
Although the Redskins name has always been shrouded in controversy, this year the team and it’s owner are facing a new wave of criticism from the highest places. In May, 10 members of Congress sent letters to Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Goodell urging the team to change the name.
According to a report by the Associated Press, the Oneidas have been vocal opponents of the Redskins nickname — be it for NFL or high school teams. The tribe, which runs a casino and resort in central New York, this year gave $10,000 toward new jerseys to an area high school that changed its nickname from the Redskins to the Hawkeyes.
“We believe that with the help of our fellow professional football fans, we can get the NFL to realize the error of its ways and make a very simple change,” Halbritter said in a prepared statement.
Halbritter said that fans also are being urged to lobby the NFL in support of the name change at www.changethemascot.org , a website that debuted Thursday.