The R Word

OneSharpeGuy's picture

In 1932, George Preston Marshall purchased the Boston Braves football team. As his second head coach, Marshall hired William “Lone Star” Dietz,  who's mother was most likely a Sioux.  To "honor" Dietz, Marshall changed the team's name to the Redskins. (Marshall also convinced Dietz to put on war paint and feathers before home games).  Marshall moved the team to Washington, DC, thereby being the southern most NFL franchise.  He assembled a marching band and commissioned a band leader to write a fight song, Hail to the Redskins featuring the line "Fight for all, Dixie".  The Redskins were the very last NFL team to integrate and even then, only after pressure from the President of the United States and the Department of Interior.  Marshall once told a reporter "No one of intelligence has ever questioned my theories on race or religion."

I began with this brief history of the Washington franchise to rebut one of the common responses to challenges that the team name is offensive.  "Well, it's not meant to be racist."  In fact, it is.  The team was so named by an avowed racist who championed the cause of racial intolerance. Even if you can find sparse groups of Native Americans who say they don't think the name is offensive, that doesn't matter.  It was meant to be offensive, so you need indeed be offended.

The current team owner Dan Snyder, has recently doubled down on the racial insensitivity, telling USA TODAY

We'll never change the name.  It's that simple.  NEVER -- you can use caps.

Well, Stephen A. Smith thinks Snyder went too far:

If you're not going to change the name of the redskins for whatever reason that's something to be debated about by folks far more knowledgeable about it  than you nor I, but, to be so openly defiant about it speaks to a level of dismissiveness to me that should alarm all of us."

My, God, give that man a Pulitzer; no wait, give that man instead, a clue.  Sarah-Palin-style word salad aside, I have to call bullshit.  You're okay with the team keeping the offensive name, as long as they acknowledge that they are offending people?  That's like saying, I'm okay if you call me the n-word, as long as you don't say it loudly and with your eyebrows down.

Back in 1995, during the O.J. Simpson trial, the actions of one of the investigators was called into question because of his history of bigotry. Reporters covering the case, offended by the detective's racially charged language, began paraphrasing his common racial slur as the N-word.  That trend became the standard, and now whenever you hear the term n-word, you know exactly what was meant and furthermore, the word being replaced is unacceptable.  I propose the same for the name of the Washington franchise.  Now, henceforth, and forever more, I will refer to them as the Washington R-words.