Earlier today our fearless leader David Fucillo posted a great flashback photo of Jerry Rice being covered by Darrell Green in the late 90's. What was even better than the photo, in my opinion, was the stance that Fooch took regarding referring to the NFL's DC franchise by name.
To briefly paraphrase, he simply stated that he didn't intend to use the current franchise name anymore. This is something that I think has been a long time coming. In 2007, the mascot of Arkansas State University (home of NFL standout 3rd stringer Cleo Lemon) underwent a facelift, calling themselves the Red Wolves. The idea behind the change, that the Indians moniker might be offensive to segments of the population, was met with ridicule by many in the local community who felt it was a challenge to the tradition and culture of the university and the state it represents. In fact, this was the biggest news Arkansas State generated during my 15 years in Arkansas, overshadowed as they typically are by the U of Arkansas Razorbacks.
I never had a huge problem with the Indians name. Mascot names are chosen as totemic representations of desirable qualities, ideals that embody the spirit of a region. In that sense, the Indians name could have been seen as a tribute, as an homage to a spirit of strength and independence. However historically inaccurate the name may be, it is still the word that most Americans identify with the indigenous population of this continent.
However, whether it bothered me or not, the fact is that it bothered people who identified with that phrase in a manner in which I will never be able to do so, people whose heritage is bound to that phrase. And so I completely supported the name change. To me, this doesn't mean that we need to abolish any sports franchise names that touch upon Native American icons. Just as my own Boston Celtics (I know, my fandom gets around) are named for my ancestry based upon desirable qualities, so do names like "Braves" point to the strength, courage and prowess of Native American warriors, and Chiefs invokes imagery of leadership, wisdom and initiative. The Florida State Seminoles were named for the undefeated tribe who never surrendered to the American government.
Still, if the majority of the Native American community felt uncomfortable with these names, I would support them in seeking change as well. These terms belong far more to this subculture than they do to the rest of us, and it's only right that we respect their wishes in regards to usage. All of that was a fairly long-winded way of saying that while I don't have strong feelings regarding these names, I can understand why others may.
Our NFL franchise in the nation's capital, however, is a completely different story. Chiefs, Indians, Braves, Seminoles, Warriors, all refer to qualities that can be admired and emulated. Washington's franchise refers specifically to a derogatorily descriptive term. A slur. (I had originally listed other racially descriptive slurs here for comparison but after re-reading I felt a bit dirty so you'll have to plug in your own).
Why is this ok? Would any other ethnic group be caricatured in such a fashion? African American, Asian American, Irish American, we all have derogatory terms applied to us by ignorant individuals from time to time, and none of us are ok with it. So why is the NFL? So I'll be joining Fooch in his boycott of Washington's name. Thanks for bringing this back to my attention. (not the smoothest bit of writing, sorry guys, but I'm simultaneously typing and parenting