Oct. 28 2013 05:22 PM

My take on the name controversy and a recommended solution

Ed Decker

On Oct. 9, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder wrote an open letter defending the football team's controversial name. It begins—as you would expect—with a lot of lip service to Redskins' devotees.

"As loyal fans, you deserve to know that everyone in the Washington Redskins organization... are truly privileged to represent this team and everything it stands for... and are relentlessly committed to our fans and..." blah, blah, gag, retch and, gawd, I hate this sort of ass kissing! Everyone in the organization feels "privileged" to be a Redskin? Have they looked at their win-loss record lately? 

Snyder continued with more sentimental dreck about his first 'Skins game: "I was only six, but I remember coming through the tunnel into the stands at RFK with my father... he's been gone for 10 years now, but that smile, and his pride, are still with me every..." gag, vomit, eye-roll, puke, barf and, well, I just want you to know that I will never pander to you with any of this emotionally manipulative, the-first-time-my-dad-took-me-to-a-football-game garbage.

The first time my dad took me to a Giants game, it was like magic. They were playing, coincidentally, the Washington Redskins. I was only 8, but I remember holding Dad's hand as Fran Tarkenton threw downfield for a touchdown. I remember the crowd erupting as I turned to my father and asked, "Dad, is football Jesus' favorite game?"

Of course, back then, I knew nothing about racism, or that "Redskins" was considered offensive by many. I don't remember exactly when I did become aware, but it was Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune who brought the issue to national attention. "How would we react if the team was named the Washington Negroes? Or the Washington Jews?" he wrote in 1992.

I get what he's saying, but his examples are poor. "Jew" is not an epithet. If you are Jewish, then you are a Jew. There is absolutely nothing offensive about that word and if I were Jewish, and a professional baseball team was named after my people—you're Yahweh-damned right I'd go see the New York Jews! How excellent would that be, with the vendors roaming the stadium, barking, "Gitcha Matzo-ball soup here!" and Itzhak Perlman fiddling the shit out of "Hava Nagila" during the seventh-inning kvetch?

"Negro" is no slur, either. I know a lot of people disagree, but etymologically, it's the benign equivalent of "Caucasian." When I was growing up, we all used it: whites, blacks, white and blue collars, politicians, civil-rights activists. The Kennedys used it. MLK used it in his "I Have a Dream" speech. The United Negro College Fund still uses it. So, why no outcry to change that name? Because of intent.

If I were African-American, I'd beam with pride in my new New York Negros jersey. Because of intent. Because professional ball clubs only name themselves after things that kick ass.  

Giants kick ass. Lions kick ass. Rangers certainly kick ass. Bears, tigers, timberwolves—asskickers! A cardinal will peck out your eyeballs and feed them to her young. Socks kick ass. Jazz kicks ass. Even lakes kick ass. And if a pair of knickerbockers ever got into a gang fight against khakis, capris and cargo pants—knickerbockers would leave them all shredded in a ditch.

I was 10 when my dear ol' dad brought me to my first high school football game. I remember looking up at his strong chin as he cheered for the home team: the Monroe-Woodbury Crusaders.

Now, see, that is an offensive mascot. Crusader? A Christian warrior who engaged in the systematic, epic slaughter of Jews and Muslims? Really? This is who you're honoring? That's like calling your team the Nazis or the Klansmen. 

Imagine how pissed Native Americans would be if there were a team called the Columbus Christophers or the Kansas City Manifest Destinys. "Redskins" isn't even in the same ballpark.

Still, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, there's credible evidence to suggest that, unlike "Jew" and "Negro," the word "Redskin" is a slur. On the other hand, this country is too sensitive about words. But back to the first hand: As a straight, white male of majority privilege, I cannot know the anguish epithets cause a minority class. In the end, however, I lean toward intent.

As the story goes, the name "Redskins" was chosen by owner George Marshall to honor his Sioux-descended head coach, William Dietz. True or not, it seems clear that no insult was intended. Nobody names his organization after something he disrespects. Therefore, I would like to propose a compromise. I propose that the Redskins get to keep their name and that everyone must shut their jicama holes about it, as long as the team agrees to the following conditions. It must:

1. Donate $5 million annually to various Native-American charities. 

2. Provide free tickets to all full-blooded Native-Americans (half price for half-bloods).

3. Install sappy, sentimental—retch, vomit, gag—billboards throughout the stadium stating how much the Washington Redskins organization truly honors these original gangstas and mentions what ballers they are.

4. During halftime, mascots must reenact the Battle of Little Bighorn, with the Redskins' mascot holding up the bloody scalp of Custer at the end.

5. Three words: In-stadium casino. 

Write to ed@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.

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