Dan Snyder addresses Redskins name controversy

Updated: October 9, 2013
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Washington Redskins team owner Dan Snyder has written an open letter to Redskins fans, declaring again that the team name will not change despite pressure from Amerindian groups who insist the name is offensive. Snyder told USA Today last May that the team would “never” change its name.

Snyder writes [in boldface, no less] “Our past isn’t just where we came from—it’s who we are.” He then goes on to use that aphorism to make the argument that the team name has been Redskins for a long time and if it was good enough back then it is good enough now. He writes “we cannot ignore our 81 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years, the team name “Redskins” continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.”

The letter is mostly a rehashing of arguments the Redskins have already made, including citing an Annenberg poll showing only 9 percent of Amerindians think the name Redskins is offensive. This poll is often used by defenders of the team name to justify their position, though it must be conceded that the poll is ten years old, so it may not be representative of current opinion. What’s more, the poll was of people claiming to be Amerindian and we know a fair number of Americans like to claim such an ethnic background even if it isn’t known or cannot be proven.

This is something the Redskins should know a bit about. Last May the team trotted out an alleged Amerindian chief to defend the team name on Redskins Nation, the team’s virtually unwatchable TV show on Comcast. Turns out this “Indian chief” not only isn’t an “Indian chief”, he might not even be Amerindian at all.

Snyder includes a plea for understanding and civility, something I can heartily endorse. The arguments over this subject, at least based on what I see in comments sections, rarely rise above the “You’re a racist” v. “You’re a politically correct libtard” level. That’s unfortunate.

I’m not a supporter of the name Redskins myself. I don’t like it for a number of reasons, some having to do with “political correctness” and some having to do with just not liking it in general and preferring a name native — if you’ll pardon the pun — to the D.C. area rather than one that was dreamt up in Boston. The overwhelming majority of Redskins fans I have known over the years have happily used the name and very few of them are racists. And if being “politically correct” means caring about the views and concerns of other human beings, then I will happily confess to being guilty of that.

This issue is not going away, no matter how much Dan Snyder may wish it would. Therefore, there will be many arguments about the name in the future. I hope those arguments will be a bit more civil and productive than what I’ve seen so far.