Washington Redskins Training Camp August 4, 2011
Keith Allison flickr

I am a deep-rooted Redskin fan. But this team has a history of being racist. The name Redskin is looked upon by Native Americans as being disparaging and insulting. I’m not going to be biased just because this is the football team that I favor. I must admit I would not like it if they were called the Africoons or the Coons, which were racial slurs used against African Americans.

The Redskins were the last professional football team to have a black player on their roster. In fact it was not until 15 years after the ban on blacks was lift- ed that the teams’ owner at the time, George Preston Marshall, finally accepted a black player. He was forced to do so by the federal government. At the time the Redskins were playing their games in what was then a new stadium, RFK Stadium, that was built on federal land. That gave the United States president the power to force the team to adhere to all federal nondiscrimination policies.

If Marshall had not accepted a black player, the Redskins would have to find somewhere else to play their games. Marshall’s racism wasn’t just against blacks but against nonwhites. As a Redskins fan, I’m not proud of these facts. As a matter of fact, I’m ashamed.

American dictionaries now define the term Redskin as usually offensive and insulting. Over 500 American Indian groups have called for the end of the use of all Na- tive American references by sports teams, even if the references are not offensive. In addition, Native American groups argue that since the word is viewed as offensive, it is inappropriate for an NFL team to use it. Susan Harjo petitioned the Trademark Trail and Appeal Board (TTAB) to cancel the trademark registration of the Washington Redskins. The TTAB agreed but the decision was later overturned by the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

I originally saw nothing wrong with the Redskins’ name, but after I got a better understanding of how Native Americans felt, my opinion changed. I think the name is offensive and disrespectful. Current Redskins owner Dan Snyder told USA Today “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER. You can use CAPS.” But it’s more than just tradition. It’s about money. Snyder would lose millions of dollars if he was forced to change the team’s name.