Rhetoric | Washington Redskins' PR Dilemma

A Solution to the Washington Redskins’ PR Dilemma

As one of Native American ancestry, I proudly carry a card from the U.S. Department of the Interior entitled “Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood.” Although, in my case, the degree certified is a relatively insignificant “1/16,” I cherish the fact that my grandmother’s grandmother was a full-blood member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and wife of the District Attorney of Pushmataha County (who was also one of the Judges of the Choctaw Nation.) As a youngster in Southern California I was also proud that, as the summer progressed, my tan would appear redder and redder. I must have been somewhat of a bore to my friends because I remember repeatedly bringing this up and displaying my copper-colored forearms to them. I can’t speak about the pride of others of Native American ancestry and especially that of full-blood Native Americans, but I strongly suspect that they are just as comfortable with the word “red” as applied to their complexion as African Americans are with the word “black.” Both terms are merely an analogy; neither truly describes even the average complexion of either race.

Recently, I was watching a brief segment on TV about the Dallas Cowboys, in which they referred to the Cowboys as “America’s Team.” I immediately thought, “If they are America’s team, then it’s a shame that the Washington Redskins can’t be adopted as ‘Native America’s Team.’” Having just returned from a year-long project in greater Washington D.C., I had witnessed the accelerating conflict over the local NFL team’s name.  After a period of stubborn proclamations like “we will never change the name…”, team management attempted to put forth reasonable logic on why the name “Redskins” is not necessarily a derogative term for Native Americans. The official Redskins web site contains videos and written comments from various Native Americans and even Canadian First Nations members purporting to be Washington Redskins fans. Team management has even created and funded a foundation to study ways to improve the lives of native peoples. http://www.washingtonredskinsoriginalamericansfoundation.org

In this writer’s opinion however, as long as the name “Redskins” is offensive to even one North American tribe or nation, no amount of logical rhetoric or well-intentioned good works will justify keeping that name.   Since the term ‘redskins’ is indeed offensive to some of North America’s indigenous people , surely the name “Washington Redmen” shouldn’t be. If the Redskins’ management changed those five letters of the alphabet, they would be able to keep their logo, uniform colors and all other paraphernalia and, even better, perhaps eventually be regarded as “Native America’s Team” and also be as deserving as the Dallas Cowboys are, of being called  “America’s Team.”