Redskin. The word means only one thing to me and millions of other Americans: Football player in Washington D.C.
I don’t buy for one minute that anyone in this country under the age of 60 has ever, with their own ears, heard the word used as a racial slur toward any segment of our population.
Despite this, ten members of your United States Congress took it upon themselves to write a letter this past week to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and all 31 other NFL franchises urging the Redskins to change their name.
These are your tax dollars at work.
Included in the letter was the quote “Native Americans throughout the country consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos.” First of all, and call me naive, but it took me a minute to figure out what the hell the “W-word” was. I didn’t hear it much growing up as a lower middle-class white kid in the northeast.
The letter goes on to say “Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw wide-spread 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.” What I find interesting about all of this is the use by both congress and the general public — including those who are at the center of this controversy — of the term “Native American.”
Why do we say “Native American”? The only reason the names of our country and continent have the word “America” in it are because of an explorer from Italy whose efforts helped flood the land with Europeans and essentially steal it from those who were already settled here. Nobody has a problem with the term “Native American” as a title for the race of people who have lived on this mass of land longer than anyone else? Interesting.
Also interesting is the roster of congressmen involved in writing the letter. The group is highlighted by Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma and Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota — leaders of the Congressional Native American (there’s that term again) Caucus.
I’m interested to know how long it took to write this letter. It is my sincere hope, for the sake of the people of the state of Oklahoma, that the letter was complete and ready for delivery before May 20th. That was the day one of the worst tornadoes in American history tore through the state of Oklahoma, killing over 50 people and ruining thousands of lives in the process.
The tornado flattened the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. Moore is in Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District, represented in congress by none other than Tom Cole. If I’m a member of that community, I’d be pretty upset to know that my congressman was involved in something as meaningless in the grand scheme of things as constructing a letter to be sent to a bunch of pro football teams in order to urge one of them to change their name. I’d like to think every ounce of work that came from his office since May 20th had to do with rebuilding the community he represents.
The constituents of the nine other members of congress must have more pressing issues in their district than the name of a professional sports team that has existed under the same nickname since 1933. I can’t imagine that the name of the Washington Redskins is a top priority in American Samoa, represented by Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, who also took part in creating the letter.
I just can’t understand why this issue keeps getting brought up, especially to the point of congressional intervention. A study by the National Annenberg Election Survey nearly ten years ago revealed that 90 percent of “Native Americans” are not bothered by the fact that Washington’s professional football team is named the “Redskins.”
If we really want to poke and prod, I can sit here and list all sorts of things that could be offensive to people. Was it not two jets that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11? I guess we better rename the New York Jets. Do we continue to honor the slaughterhouse history of Chicago by continuing to call their basketball team The Bulls? I bet animal rights activists love that. Or how about the fact that thousands of people in the United States, particularly on the eastern seaboard, have been killed or had their lives ruined by hurricanes. Are we clamoring to rename Carolina’s hockey team and the University of Miami’s athletic teams?
The short answer is “NO”, because quite frankly it would be a waste of time and energy, just as the outcry against the Redskins name is and has always been. The fact that the issue has spilled over into the U.S. Congress should be an absolute embarrassment to every citizen of our country and a clear example of how much of a joke politics have become in the United States.
Grow up and move on, America. It’s a football team. If you don’t agree with the name, don’t watch them and don’t root for them. And please, let your congressmen know that there are always more important issues they can tackle than the name of a pro football team, especially since they are doing so on our dime.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON MAY 30, 2013