Looks like all the talk about RGIII and his injury are over with for now. A much greater issue hangs over the head of the Washington [Team Name Here].
There’s no shortage of people that want the team change their name.
This of course isn’t new. In 2009, a group of native Americans tried to get the United States Supreme Court to have Washington change its name. This has been going on for years and years. In fact, one April Fools Day, a radio station in Fredericksburg told listeners the team was changing its name to the Washington Presidents.
The term itself is derogatory towards native Americans and has a long history. There’s a very good report by Ives Goddard (PDF) if you want to get a full understanding of the term and how long it has been around (HINT: Since Colonial times)
George Preston Marshall, the owner and founder of the team, changed it to the current name from the Braves in honor of Coach William Henry “Lone Star” Dietz. Dietz coached for only two seasons in the NFL, leading the team to a 11-11-2 record. However, Dietz’s heritage has been called into question in years past. The following is text from author Linda Waggoner:
For the sake of space, here’s some of what is NOT true about Ewers’ “Lone Star” Dietz: 1) There is absolutely no proof he was an Oglala Lakota; 2) He did not attend Chilocco Indian school before arriving at Carlisle (he went to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., and Friends University in Wichita, Kan.); and 3) Dietz’s romantic story about his birth and childhood in South Dakota (which Ewers quotes verbatim) was entirely fabricated. Though Dietz may have had Native ancestry (but it may be impossible to prove whether he did), he was posing as “Indian,” and needing an origin story to make himself appear authentic, he created one.
I suggest reading Waggoner’s five part series on the topic.
The team has responded to this controversy as of late by…well…posting articles about the team nickname and how many high schools around the country use the name and are “proud.” I guess we should give them a little bit of credit for Using Max Preps as a reference.
But here’s the thing, lots of schools are changing their team nickname. One of the most notable examples was Stanford, who changed their nickname to the Cardinals in 1972, after being called the Indians for 42 years. Native American students petitioned the University for a name change.
Recently, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights filed a lawsuit against 35 schools that still use native American nicknames.
Of course, one of the players had to speak up about the name change controversy, right? Well, Jordan Black did so on Monday. Black said he didn’t understand the hoopla behind the call for the name change and wasn’t aware of anyone using the racial slur. Now, as a person of Nordic descent, I’m more offended as to why he questions whether or not he’ll eat a McRib, instead of the idea that I should be offended by the Vikings name. (It’s all apples and McRib’s, ya know)
Some media outlets have chosen not to use the Washington team name. The Washington City Paper, the same paper Daniel Snyder sued because he’s Daniel Snyder, have opted to call the team the Pigskins. The Kansas City Star states it is policy not to mention the team nickname. DCist also avoids using the name, calling them the Washington ‘Skins.
With the team having success this season and possibly next season, the controversy won’t fade away. A segment of the native American population wants to see this change happen. At some point, Mr. Snyder needs to realize that this topic can’t be swept under the rug.