I hate the Washington Redskins. Always have, always will. I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan and that’s the deal – they hate us, we hate them. Period.
But, as someone who loves the First Amendment, free speech and football (and for whatever it’s worth, as a kid always cheered for the Indians to beat the U.S. Calvary in western movies) I’ll go into overtime to defend their right to keep the name they’ve played under for over 80 years – the Redskins.
Most sports teams want to be known as strong, courageous and brave. Isn’t that what the majority of people who cheer for the Washington Redskins think of when they sing the team’s fight song, “Hail to the Redskins”? The word “Hail” means to cheer, salute, acclaim, welcome. There is nothing derogatory about that. (The band’s uniforms, on the hand, are atrocious.)
Yet, some people find the term Redskins offensive and some people charge it’s a racial slur. But, in fact, most people don’t see it that way. Not a majority of D.C. residents, not a majority of Americans, and not in any poll I could find asking Native Americans that question. In a 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey, 90 percent of American Indians said that Washington calling their team the Redskins did not bother them. A 2002 Sports Illustrated poll reported that 75 percent did not find the term offensive.
That said, even if more people were offended, no one has the right “not to be offended” and we might as well throw out the First Amendment if we’re going to start banning every term, every word and every team mascot that “offends” somebody. Has no one told Scandinavian Americans about that team up in Minnesota?
Just this week a restaurant in Vermont was asked to take down a sign advertising it sold bacon because a Muslim woman complained it offended people like her who don’t eat pork. Put this up there with atheists who don’t like nativity scenes displayed publicly at Christmas because they don’t believe in God and don’t celebrate Christmas. Or those who want to ban the word “bossy” because they think it’s demeaning to girls. It seems everywhere you turn somebody is perpetually offended and their answer for dealing with it is to force everybody else to be offended with them and see the world their way.
President Obama, NBC’s Bob Costas, the U.S. Patent Office, the Washington Post editorial board, the left-leaning National Congress of American Indians, and all the others joining the PC Chorus calling for the Redskins to change their name have every right to voice their opinion – but neither they nor any court or Congress have the right to force the team to change its name.
And, talk is cheap. All those jumping on the bandwagon should put their money where their mouth is. I’m talking about folks who I normally admire, such as broadcasters Tony Dungy and Phil Simms, who announced last week they won’t use the word “Redskins” but will simply refer to the team as “Washington.” If they feel so strongly about it, maybe they should boycott their announcer salaries, not just the team’s name.
Considering all that is going on in the world today, a debate over the name of a football team’s mascot may seem like a small matter. But there is more at stake here. This is about whether a privately owned business that is not violating any law can be forced to change the name of its product simply because some people don’t like the name of the product.
If you are one of those people, there are 31 other teams in the NFL you can cheer for.