What “culture” are critics of the Washington Football Team’s new name trying to preserve?
I can’t take this any longer. This pushback over the latest name change for the Washington football franchise has gotten ridiculous. I, and many others, believe that everything must change.
I have never seen complaining go on for so long over something so cosmetic. Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta with no protests from its millions of devoted followers. None of its users expressed a sense of loss. Weren’t they connected to that culture too?
But when it comes to their NFL team, people are still losing their minds. I am now reluctant to visit any social media site because I’ll get bombarded with passionate arguments of why a despicable name means so much to them. We could never get that number of angry posts over issues of real injustice from this cross section of people spanning class, race and age. Not to mention the time spent spilling their guts on the local sports talk stations.” It’s been the same damn topic each day for weeks.
Why won’t they recognize any other inoffensive name? Whether it’s the Washington Football Team, which I liked, or the Commanders, which I also like — they just won’t go along with progress. The issue has taken on a racist tone, even from African Americans, who you’d think would show more solidarity.
It pains me deeply to hear Black fans talk of tradition. Let’s examine that tradition. First the team was called the Boston Braves. The team moved to D.C. in the early 1930s to become the “team of the South,” with the nation’s largest broadcast network, and was renamed a name I’ve come to loathe and apologize for using as reference in this piece, the R*****s. Only in 1971 did it adopt the logo of a dark-skinned Native American person and put it on the players’ helmets.
Let’s look at that in the context of the era. It was the southernmost sports franchise in the country at a time when hatred of American Indians still lingered. Remember that the Trail of Tears started in Georgia, and governments once paid individuals for scalps of indigenous people. Also the franchise was the last professional sports team to hire a Black player. They only acquired one in the early 1960s after the federal government refused them use of the then-new D.C. stadium, later called RFK. That’s the tradition you’re fighting to uphold?
We should know better than to support anything like that after what’s happened to us as a people since 1619. It sounds like the same tired-ass argument used by the Confederate flag lovers that “it’s not racist but just symbolizes ‘heritage’ and Southern pride.” And we know what kind of bull that is, don’t we?
What’s this “culture” everyone keeps talking about losing? Enlighten yourselves, people — this is 2022, and you’re still holding on to an inappropriate, demeaning name — based on what? That some Native Americans supposedly have no problem with it? Ask around. Do they call each other that name as a term of endearment? No! It’s just that so many were comfortable using it as fans and don’t like change.
I get that. But it’s not a good enough reason to continue something once you know better. When you know better, society expects you to do better. For example, for the longest time a lot of white people were okay with the o”N” word from its pure form, to “Negra” and finally to “Negro” — none of which Black people chose for themselves.
But here’s the thing that bothers me most about these supposedly dedicated fans. There is now overwhelming evidence that the team’s owner and its officials were and may still be directly involved in the sexual abuse and harassment of its female employees — yet there’s no groundswell of anger over the mistreatment of our community’s daughters, sisters and mothers. In very convenient timing, the team hired the league’s first female position coach who happens to be Black, which I believe was a way to deflect attention away from the allegations. And we still don’t know the depths of the problem and level of involvement by the team, because the NFL has not supported the full public release of the Congressional investigation into the team’s and owner’s disturbing practices. But we’re up in arms over the change of a disrespectful name.
Wake up everybody! It’s been 30 years since this team’s heyday. A lot of us have forgotten those glory days, and some have never experienced that mythical winning culture on the field at all. The culture off the field is embarrassing, so what are you holding on to?
True fans who are also decent human beings will still be able to root for the home team no matter the name, and others should practice accepting what they can’t change. Consider placing all this energy in service to those humans in our community who are suffering and truly need that level of concern, especially those women who for years were hurt by the demeaning actions perpetrated against them with not even a similar public show of support from most of those so-called D.C. football superfans for life. Why aren’t we supporting them, instead of this myth of a sports team owned by a billionaire who couldn’t care less as long as he gets paid?
Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to remove one mention of the former name of the Washington Football Team. It is Street Sense policy to not print racial slurs, regardless of the intent.
Wendell Williams is an artist and vendor with Street Sense Media.