Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

What’s in a name?

Today my local newspaper’s sports section shared the words of Washington Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen who says the team will not consider any name change:

“There’s nothing that we feel is offensive,” Allen said.

As “proof”, the team has posted on their web site “interviews with officials from the 70 high schools they say still called themselves ‘Redskins.'”.

This is not a new controversy but it is back in the news after a forum sponsored by the Smithsonian discussed the offensiveness of the name:

The symposium on “Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports” was a day-long assault on the use of Native Americans as sports mascots. It was a thorough prosecution, delivered by a dozen or so mostly academic speakers before an audience of more than 300 people.

The speakers took issue with the standard defense offered by past Redskins owners that the name is a way of honoring Native Americans.

“Honors like that we don’t need,” said Robert Holden, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians.

Those team owners have been steadfast in resisting a name change citing “many, many Indian chiefs”, certainly not as compelling as “70 high schools” but enough for Jack Kent Cooke:

“I have spoken to many, many Indian chiefs who say they have no objection whatsoever to the nickname. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a dead issue. I’m not even interested in it. The name of the Redskins will remain the Redskins,” the late Jack Kent Cooke said in 1994

Washington DC radio station WTOP writer Dave Johnson on their history of rejecting the name:

Back in 1991 WTOP made a decision to stop using the name Redskins because it was offensive to Native Americans. It was a well-meaning call of then General Manager Michael Douglass. It did not start a trend. Other media outlets did not follow WTOP’s lead. As I recall it was generally scoffed at.

In college sports offensive nicknames have been dropped. Syracuse is no longer the Orangemen, but just the Orange. St John’s is no longer the Redmen, but the Red Storm.

At least one newspaper, the Kansas City Star, did follow WTOPs lead, refusing to use “Redskins” and referring to the club as “the Washington football team”. From the Kansas City Star last fall after a letter writer complained about the Star’s policy:

I remain unconvinced by every argument I’ve ever heard that the name is not a racial epithet, plain and simple. And I’ll even break my usual rule about commenting on issues outside The Star’s journalism to say that I find it inconceivable that the NFL still allows such a patently offensive name and mascot to represent the league in 2012.

So, what do you you think? Is “Redskins” offensive or are complaints about the name “political correctness run amok”?

(Crossposted from Views from North Central Blogistan)


  1. slksfca

    Is “Redskins” offensive or are complaints about the name “political correctness run amok”?

    There is doubtless some truth to the latter, especially coming from some non-native quarters, but that doesn’t make the former any less true.

  2. When words hurt, then different words need to be used.

    I don’t like the “b” word. I’ve had women tell me to lighten up. Sorry, but my ex-husband’s favorite thing was to call me that and follow it up with “but I was only joking”.

    It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about treating people decently.

    The team needs to change their name.  

  3. princesspat

    Insensitive mascot names have always offended me, especially this one in Orofino, Idaho

    Orofino is home to both the Idaho Correctional Institution – Orofino and Idaho State Hospital North. These two facilities are located adjacent to another Orofino institution: Orofino High School. The mascot for Orofino High School is the Maniac, one of only two “Maniac” mascots in the country.

  4. zenor

    Is a poor show flack, running today’s stall up the flagpole.

    The owner is who needs awareness. The league has been hearing about it. The networks could use more nudge. Sponsors. This is a live issue.

    Our friends have spoken clearly. The name goes. Change is gonna come.

    We can even help. Stay after it. Don’t ignore it or just let it go.

    I have heard parents say to kids, we don’t use that word in this house. You could fill in a number of wrong words there.

    Same deal here. It might not irk those who don’t know how much wince it exacts on others. Quicker they know, faster it’s gone.

  5. Its the Supreme Court Stupid

    continue to use such a blantantly racist term is laughable. It is on the order of:

    “Well, shucks, there are a dozen other teams called the “Kike-kickers” around.  That proves that its not offensive.”

  6. bill d

    then isn’t it, by definition, offensive?

    It is always really easy for folks on the outside looking in on an issue to not put themselves in other’s shoes, learning to defer to the offended should be the norm and not the rarity.

    I think that there should be some sort of a consensus of the targeted group though otherwise politcal correctedness could run amok.

  7. bubbanomics

    that had mock team names and logos with analogously offensive racial derivations.  ITSCS mentions “kike,” and that was one of them.  The others, you can imagine. I thought that was a jarring, in your face, but ultimately effective messenger.

    Do away with these names.

  8. fogiv


    I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick “Americans” as their mascot.

    Deep Thoughts, by Jack Handey

  9. There are no bad words. There are bad thoughts, and bad intentions. And there are words.

    – George Carlin

    Which I think is true, when it comes to censorship and “swearing”.

    But there are a couple words I don’t like to see or hear at all, and I would never say.

    There is the use of one of those (you know it, starts with ‘n’) by millions of people who would have been previously labelled by it. I argue against this, but others argue that it allows them to “take the word back”, to somehow take the power out of the word.

    I know a lot of folks who would be labelled by another of them (the one that starts with “f”) who use it all the time. Again, I disagree. As with the previous one I find myself offended by its use, regardless of who is using it. It is sometimes used as a dagger (which, pointing either direction, is still a weapon), and its use seems more a tool to pick at a scab rather than to heal.

    But I agree with George Carlin, in the end. Words are words, intentions are intentions.

    Should it be OK if a sports team entirely of or by an ethnic group use an ethnic slur to itself? Would anyone complain if a sports team of the Appalachian hills called itself the Rednecks/Crackers/hillbillies (I bet you could find one or two that already does)? A Cherokee Nation baseball team called the Redskins?

    Dunno, dunno. Very simple question, very hard answers. Simple on the micro scale (imho the Redskins should change their name), complicated on the macro (the Braves do in fact catch hell for their name).

  10. Moozmuse

    indisputable, and as long as racist terminology is deemed acceptable in connection with sports, which is a very emotional topic for many, there can be no change in subliminal messages about racism, i.e. that it is “ok”. No, it is NEVER ok, and the business honchos don’t care, because not enough people are educated about the harm of bigoted language. I think the education should start early, but I have no idea how to go about it.

    The symposium raised quite a few interesting perspectives, and it is well worth watching, at least part of it.  

  11. rb137

    gets in the way of having important conversations. However, in this case, I doubt that anyone involved knows why the term “redskin” is offensive. You might notice that Native Americans don’t have particularly red skin — so it isn’t the same as being called black or brown or white.

    The term redskin refers to scalping. The bloody scalp is the redskin. The term reinforces the stereotype that Native Americans are savages.

    This isn’t part of the conversation, though. That’s because Native Americans aren’t yet human enough for America — particularly pro athletic teams — to care. They are little more than a circus show to them.  

  12. does anyone actually like his or hers?  why is it necessary to bestow a name on anyone so immediately after birth? my parents weren’t native English speakers, but both loved language and words.  i was their only, so Alexa for lexema (literally, words).  haha.  very funny, Ma and Pops. should have just named me Webster’s dictionary.

    my children dislike their names just as much as I do.  

    Madalena (Maddy, almost 4) knows that to be “mad” or to go “mad” is not exactly a compliment.  Monica, age 8, wonders why she has heard whispered jokes about another Monica from the Clinton era she didn’t live in. Amy, 17, the angry youth personified, does not want to be called “friend” unless, you know, she officially decides someone is her friend, after meticulous vetting.

    only Jamie (age 6, named for my first cousin, and for musician Jackson Browne, my nephew who lives with us) doesn’t complain about his name (yet). he probably knows it wouldn’t change anything, in a Spanglish-speaking family with first generation Alexa and Jason to voz una queja acerca de su nombre.    

  13. you have to ask the injured party.

    But, if you want to ask yourself, just imagine it changed to YOUR group.

    Hmm. Suppose the New York Mets were the New York Jewboys?


    Oh, yeah.  

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