Congratulations on winning the 2011 Heisman Trophy and everything you have done for Baylor University, the Waco community and the sport of college football. As an Auburn graduate watching from afar, I was very impressed with your sterling performance and even more so with the kind of person you are, your class, your dignity, and your focus on real-life issues that have nothing to do with football. I was so impressed that I decided to fly from my home in Georgia to San Antonio to see you compete in the Alamo Bowl, and I was not disappointed at all in the victorious performance of you and your teammates at the Alamodome.
And now a disclaimer: Like many in the community in which you reside, I am a Dallas Cowboys fan. As much as I have been hoping that I would be able to continue rooting for you as you move on to the NFL, rest assured that if you end up with the Washington Redskins, I will not be able to do so (as was also the case when the Redskins drafted Auburn QB Jason Campbell in 2005).
All that said, you have a rare opportunity to perhaps invoke change to something that has offended many over the years: the “Redskins” moniker used by the Washington club. One of several lawsuits aimed at removing the team name stated “the term ‘redskin’ was and is a pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable, disparaging and racist designation for a Native American person.”
While many Redskins fans and members of its organization may argue that the team name honors Native Americans, and even though some (though not all) surveys have shown that a high percentage of Native Americans are not offended by such team names, there is no questioning that nonetheless there is a sizable segment of the Native American population that is offended by it.
There is a reason Stanford University, in a move similar to many by other schools since, changed its name from “Indians” to “Cardinal” in 1972. As University ombudsperson Lois Amsterdam stated when petitioning Stanford’s president just before the name was changed, “Sensitivity and awareness do not come easily when childish misrepresentations in games, history books and motion pictures make up a large part of our experience.”
You, unlike any player on the current Redskins team or any previous team member in recent memory, are in a unique position to call for the team to change its name. As the team traded three first-round picks and one second-round pick to earn the right to draft you, obviously the short- and long-term future of the franchise hinges on its ability to sign you and have you perform at a high level.
If you were to not sign with the Redskins unless or until they changed their team name, or if you told them before the draft that you would not sign with the team unless or until it changed its team name, the organization would definitely have to consider making the name change for the health of its franchise from a football perspective. No other current or potential player on the Redskins’ roster would have such clout, as none of them have as much invested in them as the Redskins have already invested in you.
In closing, as I mentioned above, it is clear that you are very cognizant of societal issues that are far greater than anything that happens on a football field. You have an opportunity to bring about change that will be good for society. You seem to be one of the rare athletes that understands that your legacy off the field is more important than your legacy on it, and I challenge you to consider the matter I have discussed here and what your legacy will reflect.
Either you choose to seek correction to something that was wrong, or you choose to ignore it for convenience and financial gain.
— Tony Borelli