By Trey Gregory
Copy Desk Chief
When it comes to U.S. history, there aren’t many groups that have had it as bad as Native Americans. From an invasion of their homeland to an attempted genocide and the Trail of Tears, it was all pretty much downhill for Native Americans after the discovery of America.
So when an opportunity comes around in modern day to give them even a small moral victory, it is a little confusing to me why people wouldn’t just let them have it. What could possibly be more important than centuries of abuse and neglect? Football?
Oh, sorry, Native Americans. This is going to be a tough fight.
As a Washington Redskins fan, I love wearing my teams colors and logo. But instead of getting comments about the team’s performance or quarterback situation, the No. 1 thing I get asked about is the team’s name. “Can you believe they’re trying to make them change their name? Do you think they should change it?”
To clear the air, yes, I can believe they’re trying to change the name and, yes, I think they should.
Before I get too much credit for being culturally sensitive or progressive, let me admit my reasons are mostly selfish. I am just sick and tired of hearing about the Redskins name controversy. The argument will never be settled, on either side, with logic and reason. Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins, says he is honoring Native Americans with his team’s name and logo.
While opponents of the name say it is a derogatory term and, regardless of Snyder’s intent, it is offensive. Each side tries laying out facts to support their argument, but ultimately, none of it matters. Native Americans have pleaded with and fought Snyder over this issue for decades and the name remains. So, while I am sensitive to Native American history, I want to appeal to Snyder from a different angle: Do it for the fans.
I enjoy talking politics and current events probably more than most people. However, when it comes to football, I don’t want to talk about anything except the players, coaching staff and the game. So constantly getting barraged with questions or comments about my opinion of a team name really takes away from the fun.
Plus, even if Snyder, Redskins-name supporters or even some Native Americans don’t think the name is derogatory, a lot of people do, and that puts me in an awkward position. Support my team, or worry about the perception I project. I enjoy supporting my football team, but I’m not a bigot and I don’t want anyone to look at me as if I am.
Some people will surely tell me that I should just be myself and not worry what other people think and that some people are just too sensitive. However, not appearing as a bigot is part of being myself. Also, it doesn’t matter if I think the name is derogatory or not, because it’s not my word to be offended about or not.
I am a white male – who am I, or anyone else, to tell a Native American how they should feel about the Redskins? It doesn’t matter what the intent or historical context is or even that not all Native Americans agree on the issue. If a reasonably large number of Native Americans find it offensive, then I say we respect that.
However, I truly like having Native American imagery in sports, and I hope somehow the team is able to work with that community and retain the imagery in a respectful way.
When it comes to Native American imagery and sports, I think the gold standard is Florida State University, the Seminoles. The Seminole tribe has made multiple public statements about how they are proud to share their ancestral imagery with the university.
I personally even know the story of Osceola because of his use in sports mascots, and I believe I am a better person for knowing about him. Maybe Snyder can take a page from FSU’s playbook and work something out that makes both sides happy. Because there are plenty of good names Washington could use.
Just keep the colors and, if possible, the Native American imagery and I will be happy. But, please, just change the name already.
Trey Gregory is a junior journalism major from Albuquerque, N.M. He is the copy desk chief for the Lariat.