Are We Really Debating This? The Washington Red****s

This is a one-sided debate. The NFL team in Washington D.C. has an offensive name and it must be changed.

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  • "Are We Really Debating This?" is a series on featuring an ongoing debate that I can't possibly lose, since there's no reasonable argument to the contrary. This week's debate: The Washington Red****s. (It may help to read the following in a Keith Olbermann voice.)

  • What's Going On?

    I'll TELL you what's going on! There are 32 football teams in the NFL, and over 120 in the four major leagues in North American sports (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB...sorry soccer fans). Out of these 120 teams, several have nicknames that are, at best, outdated, and at worst, overtly racist. The most racist belongs to the football team in Washington D.C. I have used asterisks in the title because it is offensive and, if we want the name to be changed, we should stop writing it and saying it ourselves.

    But, I will type it out right here, along with some of the other offensive team names, so I can be sure that we're all on the same page here: Redskins. That's the team in Washington, D.C. Here are some of the other offensive names: Chiefs, Indians, Braves, Blackhawks. Granted, people aren't frequently as upset about "Blackhawks" but their logo is just as awful.

    These names reference archaic concepts of American Indians — which I believe is a more acceptable term than "Native American" — as fierce, exotic warriors. They ignore the unspeakable tragedies that befell Indian tribes in the Americas for hundreds of years, and discount the other contributions of these people to modern society. The football team in D.C. is particularly troubling, as it refers to their teams motto only by skin color. "Chiefs" and "Braves," though also derogatory, at the very least try to bestow their outdated caricatures with chivalry and honor. (Don't get me wrong, they are still offensive, but I'm trying to illuminate why "Reds***s" has become so volatile at this moment.)

  • Redskins fuck you
  • The Counter-Arguments

    Here's the part of the article where I try to find out what the arguments are from those with opposing viewpoints and mock them.

    Let's start with the arguments from Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington team. In an interview with ESPN's Outside The Lines, he defended the name.

    It’s what the name actually means. I would like people to know the history of, whether it’s Lone Star Dietz, whether it’s Walter "Blackie" Wetzel in Montana. It’s just historical truths. And I’d like them to understand, as I think most of them do, that the name really means honor, respect. We sing “Hail to the Redskins.” We don’t hurt anybody. We sing "Hail to the Redskins, Braves on the Warpath, Fight for ol' DC." We only sing it when we score touchdowns.

    He makes four arguments in this short paragraph, all of which are entirely unconvincing, but I think it'll help to go through them one at a time. Here they are:
    1) Indians came up with the name and the logo.
    2) The name means "honor, respect."
    3) The name doesn't hurt anybody.
    4) The team's fight song, which features the offensive name, is only sung in celebratory circumstances.

    1) Indians came up with the name and the logo.
    This is only half true, but even if it was all true, it wouldn't matter.

    William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz was a football player who claimed to be a member of the Sioux Nation, who joined the Reds***s as coach in the 1930s when they were the Boston Braves. It is claimed that the team's owner at the time, George Preston Marshall, renamed the team the Reds***s after Dietz. Of course, historians uncovered decades ago that Dietz was just an ordinary Midwestern white guy who sought to capitalize on America's cultural fascination with Indians.

    Walter S. Wetzel was, in fact, an American Indian, and yes, he did create the team's logo that now appears on their helmets. This argument is invalid because...who gives a shit who came up with it? If a black guy was the cinematographer on The Birth of a Nation, it wouldn't make the film any less racist or offensive. Plus, according to the Washington Post, a significant number of Wetzel's descendants believe the name and logo to be offensive, and think Walter Wetzel's name is being used "as a pawn" in this debate.

    2) The name means "honor, respect."
    Nope. The name is a compound word describing skin color. What it might mean symbolically to Dan Snyder has no bearing on the literal interpretation of the word "red" and the word "skin."

    3) The name doesn't hurt anybody.
    Wrong. To refute this argument, all I need is to find one person whom it hurts. So I'll just link to some organizations representing tens of thousands of American Indians who find the name hurtful: Oneida Indian Nation, the National Congress of American Indians, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Colorado River Indian Tribes. There are dozens more. Here is a video of leaders from different tribes detailing the grievance:

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    4) The team's fight song, which features the offensive name, is only sung in celebratory circumstances.
    Huh? So, if I only call my Jewish friend a lucky heeb after he wins four dollars on a lottery scratcher, it's okay? Shut up. Just shut up.

    In case you need to see Snyder actually deliver his arguments verbally, here you go:

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    What about all the fans, though? The fans who have no racist sentiment toward American Indians of any kind? Fortunately for this article, The Daily Show absolutely nailed this in a recent Jason Jones segment.

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    I hate to break it to that one kid we all knew in middle school, but the claim that you're 1/16th Cherokee doesn't mean jack shit. That guy from the Leprechaun in Mobile video is more Irish than you are Indian.

  • The Good News

    Yes, of course there's good news. It's that all of us reasonable people are on the right side of history. Broadcasters are also saying the name of Washington's team less than ever before on television. Eventually, this name will be changed. Until then, we'll just have to keep mocking Dan Snyder and the NFL owners whom he says are on his side. (The NFL and its rich, white owners are really having a hell of a year, aren't they?)

    The author of this post is a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, though he denies that he is a drunken asshole. His fandom in no way influenced the content of his argument.

    Got a suggestion for "Are We Really Debating This?" Leave it in the comments and I'll see if the topic has any reasonable arguments to the contrary.

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