Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Redskins Nickname Must Go

Last Friday (the 15th), in a judicial decision that hinged on a legal technicality, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., upheld the right of the local pro football team to keep its unconscionable nickname, "The Redskins". Coincidentally, the day before (Thursday May 14th) the North Dakota Board of Higher Education voted unanimously to do away with the University of North Dakota's "Fighting Sioux" nickname by October 1, 2009 deeming it both "hostile and abusive". Anybody see a problem with this? Because I do.

Obviously this is a little bit of an apples to oranges comparison being that the Redskins are in the NFL and that much of the resistance to UND's Fighting Sioux nickname came from the NCAA and specific tribes.

Now, as a University of North Dakota student I am obviously very biased in my views on the Sioux nickname. And I will admit that i was a bit crushed when I heard the nickname was going to be eliminated completely. However, I am going to put my feelings for that aside here. My complaint with the Redskins nickname is a completely separate entity in my mind.

In clinging to the most racially offensive moniker held by a major U.S. professional sports team ever the franchise continues to offend some Native Americans and boggle my mind. How can more people not be offended? Imagine trying to explain “Redskins” to a foreign visitor or someone from the future? Especially when people get so worked up over nicknames like "Fighting Illini", "Fighting Sioux", "the Warriors", and "the Savages". This is a nickname that affects and should anger not just one or two tribes in a small state. This is a nickname that puts down ALL Native Americans in the US. Every time I say or hear "Redskins" I am baffled as to why there isn't more widespread outrage.

You can spare me the speech on how the name is actually a tribute to Native Americans, or how other allegedly similar groups (think Vikings) achieve mascot status. You can skip the talk about the importance of the team name to its fans or the tradition that would be compromised were it to be changed. Why? Because I've lived it! Granted I'm not a Native American but I go to a university with a very rich athletic tradition that is losing a nickname that it has served honorably.

Like I said, I fully comprehend the differences in the situation. The Redskins are a professional football team and a privately owned organization. They also do not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA. Despite these differences the nickname is unbelievably racist and offensive to an entire race of people. What if an NFL team "honored" our country's African-American population by being named the Brownskins? I've thought it for a long time and given the ironic timing of these court rulings I've got to put this out there: The Redskins nickname flat out needs to go.

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