clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays

New, comments

What’s in a name?

Hamlet play, 1971 Photo ITAR-TASS
  1. Finally...a name change article in this space about an...actual...name...change. This topic has been on the docket for DECADES, but I made an editorial decision on this site about 11 years ago that we simply couldn’t cover it around the clock and still expect to engage fellow fans and local media on the action taking place on the football field. In my position, I have been contacted by countless folks on both sides of the issue, including testimonials from Native Americans who are proud of the name as well as Native Americans who have wanted the name changed since before I was born. I have been interviewed by fellow members of the Washington media, personalities from around the nation on drive-time radio sports shows, columnists from most major print newspapers and magazines, and I even did an interview with the BBC where they wanted to engage at length on the topic. In all fairness, I have been firmly in support of a team name change since I took over Hogs Haven, but I have lived inside the chaos and confusion about what that meant and what all went into that topic. As a lifelong fan of my hometown team, I have focused this site on the experience of loving football and being invested in the greatest team sport on the planet. I accept that this has exposed me to being seen as supporting the name. I was not prepared to boycott the NFL over the Redskins name, and often found it hypocritical of fans of other teams who made it seem like supporting the Redskins meant supporting something evil. The NFL is a group of 32 rich guys and my opinion has always been that if you support any team in the league, you support them all. My support for a name change has only grown during my time as managing editor of Hogs Haven, but even amongst my staff—which has turned over many times in the last decade—there was never a full consensus on it, and I refused to make it a wedge we could beat each other with while trying to document the experience of following a professional football organization. Instead, everyone has had a chance to put forward their opinion on the matter, in a space where they wouldn’t be harassed or judged. It is on a day like this that I am extremely excited that our site was named for the great players that made a generation of Redskins football great: The Hogs. As for the name of the team, let it be changed, and let us move on to the business of hoping for the return of a winning football team. Before that though, I thought it would be fruitful to go back and recount some of the many factors I have considered across many columns that have been dedicated to this topic.
  2. When Dan Snyder said that he would NEVER change the name of the team, that was when I knew FOR SURE that the name of the team was going to be changed. Snyder has spent two decades waging what has to be one of the dumbest PR operations on record. From suing little old ladies for failing to pay for over-priced season tickets when he simultaneously claimed he had hundreds of thousands of people waiting to buy those same tickets, to censoring fans whose shirts and signs stated negative things about him and Vinny Cerrato, to throwing tantrum after tantrum and chewing through head coaches—and that is barely scratching the surface—Snyder has sown ill will into the fabric of the fanbase. One thing that always made it easy to be anti-name: that Snyder was so hardcore pro-name! The man had two decades to build a story around the positive imagery linking the name “Redskins” and the proud Native American tradition. What we got was a lot of razor-thin propaganda, and on one gameday, Snyder literally went with the “...but I have a Native American friend” argument.
  3. None of us should deny that the word “Redskins” has been used at some point in a derogatory manner. It bears remembering how we got this name at all. Though many of you are like me, and never knew the word “Redskins” to be associated with anything else besides a winning football team led by men like Joe Gibbs and Bobby Beathard, it is instructive to dig a little deeper. George Preston Marshall changed the name of the team from “Braves” to “Redskins” because he didn’t want his football team to be named after another professional sports team. He picked the name himself. This is the same guy who refused to integrate this team until 1962, and only because of pressure from the federal government. He considered the Washington market to extend through the south, and it was no secret or mystery why he thought it bad for business to integrate. As his statue and legacy are being removed from the organization, we are hearing from his own living relatives voicing support for these very moves. You are still free to consider the name “Redskins” to be a positive reflection of a Native American warrior’s spirit, but you can’t separate the name from the fact that a guy regarded as an incredibly discriminatory individual hand-picked it.
  4. Even if you want to cling to the argument that the name is harmless and that Snyder is “caving” for changing the name, can we all just take a deep breath? Can we try for a second to not make this political (I know...incredibly difficult in the nation’s capital)? Over the course of time, we have seen words change in meaning and connotation. These words may have at different points of history been socially acceptable to the masses, but we have all kind of agreed that we don't use those words anymore—a social contract, if you will. I don’t think it is so outrageous to think that a name that was conjured by a bigot in 1933 would be considered offensive almost 100 years later in a world that has been reshaped many times over. This is part of my problem with Snyder, who has forfeited the chance to frame this transition up any number of positive ways. That was my call back in 2013...how about a graceful move to another way of honoring the very people you were claiming to be so intent on honoring? On this point, some of you are going to find it impossible to erase that thought in your head that this is being driven by some PC-agenda. I would beg you to at least try and consider: I also wanted to find a way forward with the name Redskins, always believing that the team was trying to pay that respect to the Native American culture. Instead of engaging on this in a meaningful way, Snyder dug in on the word. He chose keeping a word over demonstrating why he claimed to want that word. It ultimately became too much to credibly buy into, and has caused me to be increasingly in the camp of changing the name.
  5. Call my team what you will...but here’s what you can’t ever change: John Riggins still took it to the house on 4th-and-one. Darrell Green still ran down Tony Dorsett on Monday Night Football. Sean Taylor still picked up that blocked kick and set up a game-winner over Dallas with no time left. Art Monk still caught a record-breaking pass from Mark Rypien. Dexter Manley still knocked out Danny White. Doug Williams still lit the Super Bowl on fire. Those seat cushions still rained down on RFK Stadium. Those stands still bounced up and down. Whether they are the Redskins, Redwolves, RedTails or Warriors, our history ain’t going anywhere. Our team (I think) will still be wearing the burgundy and gold. The tradition set down by men like Joe Bugel will always be relevant. The example set by men like Bobby Mitchell will stand forever.
  6. By any name, I will root for the team representing my hometown. I will gather with friends and family on Sunday and root on Chase Young, Terry McLaurin, Dwayne Haskins, Jonathan Allen and of course our MVP, Tress Way (haha)! I will continue to look to men like Ron Rivera to set this ship right inside that so very troubled building at Redskins Park. I probably still won’t buy season tickets, because Dan Snyder has a long way to go to show me he deserves money out of my wallet. I am still beyond troubled by the continued presence of Dan Snyder in the owner’s box, but hiring Rivera goes a long way for me in terms of “seeing where this goes.” More than bending to political pressure, this move by Snyder would show a willingness to be more in step with where society is finding common ground and agreement. That is a big deal for a man who has shown almost no interest in what anyone around him thinks. And for those of us who are a bit older and lament change in its various forms, allow me to welcome you to that oh-so-hilarious-and-stereotypical stage of life. It is kind of the job of older generations to question the moves and motives of younger generations—that has been going on for centuries. The generations before us did the same thing. There are enough things for us to argue about and wring our hands about...let’s not make the name of a football team one of them. There is way more to gain in this life by enjoying NFL Sunday together than there is in beating each other about the name a jersey.

...to be continued...