During halftime of the Dallas-Washington Sunday Night Football Bob Costas said the following:
"With Washington playing Dallas here tonight, it seems like an appropriate time to acknowledge the ongoing controversy about the name “Redskins.”Last Thursday, in a diary by Meteor Blades entitled Blackfeet elder Bob Burns says his son-in-law, ESPN's Rick Reilly, misquoted him on 'Redskins' name I posted a comment that I never imagined I would be returning to not even a week later to, but here I am and it is because of the above Bob Costas commentary on Sunday night and some things about it that have really bothered me since I first saw the video of it this past Monday morning. Here is a link to the original comment and the parent diary.
"Let’s start here. There is no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snyder, or any official or player from his team, harbors animus toward Native Americans or wishes to disrespect them. This is undoubtedly also true of the vast majority of those who don’t think twice about the longstanding moniker. And in fact, as best can be determined, even a majority of Native Americans say they are not offended.
"But, having stipulated that, there’s still a distinction to be made. Objections to names like 'Braves,' 'Chiefs,' 'Warriors,' and the like strike many of us as political correctness run amok. These nicknames honor, rather than demean. They are pretty much the same as 'Vikings,' 'Patriots,' or even 'Cowboys.' And names like 'Blackhawks,' 'Seminoles,' and 'Chippewas,' while potentially more problematic, can still be OK provided the symbols are appropriately respectful – which is where the Cleveland Indians with the combination of their name and “Chief Wahoo” logo have sometimes run into trouble.
"A number of teams, mostly in the college ranks, have changed their names in response to objections. The Stanford Cardinal and the Dartmouth Big Green were each once the Indians; the St. John’s Redmen have become the Red Storm, and the Miami of Ohio Redskins – that’s right, Redskins – are now the Red Hawks. Still, the NFL franchise that represents the nation’s capital has maintained its name. But think for a moment about the term “Redskins,” and how it truly differs from all the others. Ask yourself what the equivalent would be, if directed toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any other ethnic group.
"When considered that way, 'Redskins' can’t possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent. It is fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended. But, if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense might legitimately be taken?"
"Let’s start here. There is no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snyder, or any official or player from his team, harbors animus toward Native Americans or wishes to disrespect them. This is undoubtedly also true of the vast majority of those who don’t think twice about the longstanding moniker. And in fact, as best can be determined, even a majority of Native Americans say they are not offended."Ah, yes. That old standby for weaksauce, the nod to "political correctness run amok".
It's such a serious topic that it merits being dismissed and diminished being baked in the meme.
This kind of smarmy cap tip to the always sacred and precious fee-fees of the delicate flower defenders of the indefensible never stops happening and never ever stops really pissing me off. Part of the reason I made my original comment in the first place was my frustration over so many being so overly God damned concerned with the always sacred and always oh so precious fee-fees of those soft delicate flower defenders of the indefensible all around us to begin with. It enables. It helps the lingering problem endure. I think you are doing your country a profound disservice when you go out of your way to give gravitas and respect to blatant ignorance and stupidity in the name of sacred even-handedness. People have been too nice to Daniel Snyder.
Don't even get me started about that gobsmacking "And in fact, as best can be determined... " polished crapola. Google "Chief Dobson" and "Daniel Snyder" and you'll see exactly what I mean. When you are done, you will see why I am extremely skeptical of the idea that Native Americans are just tickled to the core to be on the receiving end of the "Redskins" as a tribute and honor based on the 'as far as we can tell' metric of institutional and individual skepticism.
So how does that tie into some discussion about rebranding the NFL's Washington Redskins?
It comes into play when I recall the almost-but-not-quite-the-end of a heated argument on the subject of a certain racist-themed NFL franchise actually being racist or not back around 1994. I was at a party. It was a real bombshell for the ages. You can tell this because I was arguing loudly about an out-of-town sports franchise's name with somebody that I barely even knew. The then-as-now Washington Redskins began their sports existence as the old Boston Redskins. As anyone who has ever known or loved a native-born Boston sports fan can tell you, that's pretty much just enough to make some locals brawl about the outcome like it actually matters. I said it was racist. The other guy said it was not only not, but actually a tribute to "Redskins". "Real Redskins". As in 'I'm sure if you'd asked some actual real live flesh-and-blood indians, I'm pretty sure they most of 'em would tell you it makes 'em real proud about their heritage being recognized, if anything'.
'Indians' pronounced as if it somehow rhymes with 'FunYuns'. It was that kind of discussion.
So. Norwegian. That would be the 'gotcha' moment that was supposed to shut me right down.
The triumphant "Gotcha"? Why:
My lack of ire at the Minnesota Vikings and their franchise logo.
Are you... serious?
I ended up just staring wide-eyed, almost mouth agape, at this not-my-friend of a friend who tried to put a seriously intellectually bogus cherry right on the top of his sadly argued drivel by trying to use me not being outraged by the Minnesota Vikings or their logo/mascot as a valid counter-example as to why people of Native American heritage should "get over it", or even be flattered by the Redskins name and iconography. This is one of those few times in my life where I have ever come to regret wearing my heritage, literally, on my shirtsleeve in Norway flagpin, patch, or t-shirt form, as I was introduced to trolling before I ever knew that that was the word for it.
"Well, I don't see you and and a dozen other Norwegians and Swedes all marching around the Vikings headquarters in Minnesota demanding the team re-invent itself."
I wish that I knew the word 'Derp' back then, almost as much as I wish I knew 'trolling'.
I'm Norwegian. Yes, the majestic Super Swede on the helmet is not historically accurate.
But a six year old could see where this breaks down. At least, most any six year old should.
"Vikings" is not a slur. The idealized Great White God-King on the logo certainly is not a slur.
If anything, it is something so idealized in a non-negative way, that, stripped of its NFL brand, I could see it on the white power T-Shirt of a Skinhead at a rally. What negative and degrading message does that purple and yellow Super Swede iconography communicate to a poor to pampered white kid vs. what message does 'Redskin' communicate to a kid of native nations decent trying to deal with everything else he or she has on his or her plate in America today. Saying that white people of Nordic decent should be enraged by that franchise's identity, and because they are not, it is totally 'x is just like y' "comparable" to the Redskins and native peoples who object to it is... beyond fucking silly. It's as intellectually sound as positing the notion that calling a person ideally handsome is the exact same thing as calling somebody else stomach-churningly ugly to try and make a lead balloon of a thought fly like a bird. It's as insulting as telling people of the Native Nations they should be "proud" there is a team called the 'Redskins' at all because it is fundamentally 'a tribute to them'.
In the last two decades, I have stopped being surprised when such non-arguments are offered up by the defense as iron-clad and unassailable bits of logic and reasoning meant to stop all other arguments cold. Nothing, apparently, is too stupid or too inane or too small a speck of a pebble to try and hang the weight of the Rock of Gibraltar on for the ages.
We live in a rich and powerful nation, a grand experiment for the ages, where people who are very rich and people who have have very little alike can and will defend the indefensible with great fire and furor. Even over the embarrassingly modest degrees of inconveniencing the powerful that might be required to fix serious problems and lingering social transgressions as if the feathers that need to be flicked off of their backs are too much of a burdensome act to contemplate. Even if the old regime they are defending is directly harming them and the change would make their lives better. You can learn a lot about everything that plagues our country in such a debate. You can literally marvel at the fetid swamp of fig leaves plunked to paper over the weeping sores that the non-afflicted demand the God-Given right to feverishly cling to. Because they feel personally entitled to maintain them no matter what their costs impose on others who are not them. On "the principle of the thing".
God, spare me apologia for bigotry and excuses for racism rising up from "the principle" defense.
At the time, I finally just walked away. I imagined he just might be the kind of guy to spend hours in Tower Records digging through all the bins seeking the wailing sounds of the Blues.... as performed by the plantation owners of the old South. Leaving muttering bitterly under his breath about the 'reverse racism' responsible for there being no such classics of the genre to be found in the stacks. Tower Records must be reverse racist against people who are White and Right like me, grrrr.
It has been almost 20 years since I had that encounter and heated discussion over the Washington Redskins being 'not racist at all, but really a compliment' with another white guy. The reason that it's relevant today to bring it up is that I could have that exact same argument this afternoon with a stranger I meet in the grocery store line at some Albertson's buying milk. Every damned bit of it. And the argument for the defense would be hung on the same idiotic nonsense as well. Jesus. It's racist. Embarrassingly so. Indefensibly so. It's 2013 and it was unbearably racist and embarrassingly so back in 1993-4. Back then, when the Redskins were a powerhouse with recent Superbowl championships, clinging desperately to the tired figleaf of 'the legacy and tradition' argument was vapid. Today? They have been a laughingstock for years, decades removed from their days of glory. They'd benefit financially from a complete and total rebrand. A rebrand would mean new gear, new posters, new clothing, new kitsch and would be a very good business decision from a moneymaking standpoint.
Changing the Redskins brand and logo is not a heavy lift. It's not.
Not to the team's smug billionaire owner or the League of Billionaires he belongs to.
"It's the principle of the thing."
Well, if those sacred principles happen to be 'myopic greed', 'insensitivity', 'the "right" to be racist and not be called/labeled racist', and 'laziness'? Sure. Otherwise? Bullshit.
Too much credence has been granted the defenders of the indefensible for far too long.
This is about white people telling non-white people that they are not even willing to exercise the amount of intellectual and moral effort on par with getting up off of a couch and changing the channel by hand because you can't find the remote to see what is happening in someone else's universe and admit that it is all true. Every bit.
There is no defense of the brand. None.
Not tradition. Not the franchise's previous history. Nothing.
Change the fucking name of the team, and it's damned logo.
Washington Warriors. Spartans. Dragons.
It's time. Nobody should be having this exact same argument again twenty years from now.
If that means embarrassing and annoying Mr. Daniel Snyder, and making the legions of delicate flower defenders of the indefensible personally uncomfortable and defensive, well, then so be it.