What’s in a name?
President Obama answered a question during an interview with the AP last Friday about whether or not the Washington Redskins football team should change its name:
“I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” Obama said, adding that team names like “Redskins” offend “a sizeable group of people.”
Is the name really offensive? Or do Obama and fellow liberals just think it ought to be, and declare it to be so?
Lanny Davis, the team’s attorney, responded to the president’s comments concerning the “sizeable group” that is allegedly offended:
“I am sure the President is not aware that in the highly respected independent Annenberg Institute poll (taken in 2004) with a national sample of Native Americans, 9 out of 10 Native Americans said they were not bothered by the name the ‘Washington Redskins.’ The President made these comments to the Associated Press, but he was apparently unaware that an April 2013 AP poll showed that 8 out of 10 of all Americans in a national sample don’t think the Washington Redskins’ name should be changed.
“The Redskins respect everyone. But like devoted fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians, and the Chicago Blackhawks (from President Obama’s hometown), the fans love their team and its name and, like those fans, they do not intend to disparage or disrespect a racial or ethnic group. The name ‘Washington Redskins’ is 80 years old – its history and legacy and tradition. The Redskins’ fans sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ every Sunday as an expression of honor, not disparagement.”
The Skins and their mascot have been around since 1932. The nickname wasn’t offensive then, why is it offensive now? Is identifying someone by his/her skin color any more offensive than labeling someone “the blonde girl,” “the redhead boy,” or “the brunette”? What’s wrong with “white guy/black guy” when you aren’t using the descriptor to stereotype in a prejudiced way the person who possesses it?
The football team’s portrayal of its mascot does not denote anything negative about having red skin. If anything, isn’t the Red-skinned person, as a mascot, an individual whose characteristics the team seeks to emulate? What about the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame? Why is Obama not offended by this? The name classifies and depicts a specific race of people in a very definite way.
Or how about the Steelers, the Packers, and the Cowboys? These mascots label people in a different way- not by the color of their skin but by what their livelihood happens to be. The Texans: classifying people by where they happen to live. It would seem the only safe thing to do is not label anyone anything at all, or perhaps just call them something non-controversial: the San Francisco Football Players.
The name “Redskins” shouldn’t be offensive to anyone with a brain, and it isn’t to the majority of Americans, native and otherwise. Even if the name were offensive, shouldn’t it be up to people to express their displeasure and let it be known by boycotting the team or protesting in the same way we do/should when we want to influence our lawmakers on certain policy?
Rather, we sit around and wait for a politically correct politician to tell us what things should and should not offend us.