I am usually unmoved when activist groups attack the names of various athletic teams for alleged ethnic or racial insensitivity. I don't believe that names like the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Florida Seminoles, or Fighting Illini are inherently disrespectful or demeaning. And, from the survey data I've seen in the past, it seems that most Native Americans feel the same way (and I would reconsider my views if I learned otherwise). There is, however, one prominent exception: the Washington Redskins. If there are racially insensitive name in sports, this is it.
Washington plays its first game of the season tonight, and the Washington Post uses the occastion to suggest it's time to change the name.
The Washington Redskins start their season tonight and, as most sports fans will attest, it is a time to think of endless possibilities. . . . We share in the excitement, but in truth we also are embarrassed to embrace a team that is so terribly named.The editorial also suggests a test for determining whether a team name is offensive:
We take team owner Daniel M. Snyder at his word that he sees the nickname as an honor, and we appreciate how hard it is to abandon well-loved traditions. By the same token, it really is not up to the offender to characterize the nature of the offense. We can't imagine Mr. Snyder, or anyone else for that matter, sitting in a room of Native Americans and referring to them as Redskins.By this standard, many other sports names, such as those mentioned above, are okay, but "Redskins" clearly flunks the test — unless, of course, the team mascot is changed to a redskin potato.