WASHINGTON, June 10, 2014 — Yesterday Politico reported that the Washington Redskins have hired a lobbyist to help in the fight against the public pressure to change their name. According to an article by Byron Tau, the move came after 50 blue senators sent a letter to the NFL asking them to force a name change, as the term “Redskin” is nothing but “a racial slur.”
This particular effort from the left to make the world politically correct 100 percent of the time is interesting, even perplexing. It is now a crime to offend someone — perhaps not under actual U.S. law, but in the court of public opinion. We cannot deviate from the accepted opinions of progressives in Washington, New York, and Hollywood, lest we be cast asunder and our goods forfeit.
We are in a massive game of Minesweeper; any step could be our last, unless we grovel really well.
It may be wrong to focus on the Washington Redskins. There are many other sports teams in the U.S. with offensive names and mascots.
For example, what about the Cleveland Indians? Everyone knows that they are not “Indian”; Christopher Columbus himself figured that out pretty quickly. Since we’ve known that for over 500 years, it is interesting that more attention is not focused on changing the name of the Cleveland Indians and their mascot, who looks like he was taken right out of the Peter Pan cartoon.
Christians, especially of Northern European descent, might object to the name “Minnesota Vikings.” The Vikings burned and pillaged much of the knowledge and treasure of the Christian world. Pages upon pages of manuscripts were burned or destroyed during Viking raids, robbing us of precious historical records. These are the people who literally split open the rib cages of condemned men to make the “blood eagle” that the History Channel show, “Vikings” portrayed so gruesomely.
Isn’t the name “New Jersey Devils” potentially offensive to the religious? Naming a team after the root of all evil should be at least as offensive as giving a team a name the Native Americans used to describe themselves.
Isn’t “Canuck,” as in the Vancouver Canucks, a slur for Canadian people?
And how about the Dallas Cowboys? “Cowboy” refers to an organized crime group which rampaged through the American Southwest; they were the antagonists in the movie Tombstone. Cowboys ran extortion rackets, killed for money, and destroyed property. Having a team named after them is rather callous when you think of all of the people whose lives they destroyed.
Let’s not forget the San Antonio Spurs, named for an instrument of torture that has been used for thousands of years to inflict pain on enslaved horses in order to increase their speed while they carry a 200-pound individual. PETA should be all over that one.
The New York Yankees might as well be called the New York Sherman Burned Georgia.
The Pittsburg Pirates are named for ruthless killers. Everyone loves pirates in the U.S., forgetting that pirates raided and slaughtered people all over the world in the name of organized theft. We romanticize pirates and pirate history, yet are outraged every time another Somali pirate crew captures another tanker. Next time you root for the Pittsburg Pirates, think of Captain Phillips and everything he went through.
Where is the major movement to change the Atlanta Braves to something else? The NAACP has issued a challenge for all “Native American” named teams to change their names, but their call has not been answered by 50 U.S. Senators and the progressive media. Perhaps it is because the Braves make it to the playoffs almost every year.
What about the Boston Drunken Irish — apologies, the Boston Celtics? Pronunciation aside, the name is simple. The Celts were a tribal group covering much of Europe at one point, and now the name refers to the peoples of the Six Celtic Nations. Nothing offensive there. However the mascot of the Boston Celtics is a vest- and knee-pants-wearing, pipe-smoking, shillelagh-swinging Leprechaun. The caricature of the Leprechaun was created by the British and anti-Irish Americans as a way to demean the Irish and cast them down in society. The Irish in America were considered a different race at one point in some states, and the Leprechaun is a symbol of drunken and slovenly behavior. But that’s not offensive enough to get senators mad, or the 40 million Americans who claim Irish heritage, so it’s probably not even worth mentioning.
We’ve barely scratched the surface. The sports world is full of Braves, Illini, Seminoles, Utes, Hawkeyes, Aztecs, Chiefs, Warriors, Blackhawks, and Red Storms. There are Raiders, Texans, Swedes, Moccasins (the snake, not the footwear, but when you’re offended, how can you tell the difference?), Vandals, Norsemen, Spartans, Trojans, Gaels and Quakers. Let’s not forget the Freeburg Midgets, Orofino Maniacs, Centralia Orphans, and Laurel Hill Hoboes. And who could forget the Butte Pirates, Rhode Island School of Design Nads, or the Oregon Beavers? The capacity for offense is endless.
There are no clean hands in history. Most team names in sports have the potential to offend someone. Being offensive is not a crime, and being offended does not make you a victim. If you don’t like the Washington Redskins, then don’t support them. If you are upset at the mascot of the Boston Celtics, don’t go to their games; root for the LA Lakers. Your indignation at being offended is trumped, or should be, by the right to free speech and expression.
However, owners can’t give their teams outrageously offensive names and expect fan and league support. There are limits to that freedom in terms of how the market will react.
While the Washington Redskins will most likely not change their name on their own, the NFL has vested interest in protecting the brand of the National Football League. They would not want to be associated with, or in turn support, a franchise which brings negative attention to the league, much like the NBA with the LA Clipper situation. And while the Redskins have their right to free speech and should ignore the letter signed by the U.S. senators, they can’t ignore the NFL when it comes to negative reactions from the market.
However, that market is particularly strong at this point. Every year the Redskins fans return for more punishment and shattered hopes, yet the team enjoys widespread support from a diehard fan base, who does not seem to be too phased by this name changing ordeal.
The name “Redskins” is offensive to some people, but it’s just offensive — not illegal, not a violation of rights, only a violation of sensibilities. America, the land of hurt feelings, seems to have forgotten that.
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