Saturday, September 14, 2013

What's in an NFL Team's Name?

So what's in an NFL team's name? It means everything in some cases. For many NFL teams, their nickname defines them. Look at the Vikings, Packers, Giants, Patriots, etc., etc. For these teams, their nickname is as much a part of their identity as anything else that identifies them.

Then we have the Washington Redskins (last time I will use their nickname). The nickname identifies the team more than most nicknames do but now there is controversy surrounding the use of the nickname and the team's logo (Logo of a Native American inside a yellow circle with hanging feathers). Daniel Snyder the owner of the team says he'll never change the team's name. The team's fans embrace the name as well, for the most part (that is changing).

My argument against identity as a reason to keep a team name is this: American slave owners had the identity of their brutal treatment of slaves. That's not the type of identity that Americans want to embrace. The identity of the Nazis during World War II was the Swastika. That identity endures today with many Neo-Nazi groups. Many of us are disgusted that anyone would have that identity.

Germany has outlawed the use of Swastikas. So it's evident that it offends people. So it's not a stretch that the use of Washington's name and their logo insults and offends Native Americans. I know I'll take some heat in comparing the use of Washington's name and logo to Nazis and I'm not comparing the two but the use of the nickname is offensive and offends Native Americans. Shouldn't we be sensitive to that?

I think so. I'm a Jew and I know too well about the persecution of my people throughout history. Native Americans have been persecuted as well. Shouldn't we respect them? Yes we should. It amazes me that in our modern and enlightened America we would have to argue about keeping an offensive name of an NFL team.

They should get rid of the name and the logo. If they don't the NFL and Roger Goodell should make the decision for them and ban the use of the name. The fact that he seems to support the use of the name, makes me wonder why. Is it about money?

So the NFL won't do the moral and ethical thing? It will only do the monetary thing? Maybe if it started to cost the NFL in their pocketbook, they might grow some coconuts and do the right thing and that's scrap the name and logo.

We have a precedent of an organization forcing the removal of team's name and logo. The NCAA forced the University of North Dakota to get rid of its nickname, the Fighting Sioux and the team's logo. After a long of fight, the university agreed to do abide by the NCAA's wishes.

Some fans as well as Washington's NFL team owner, Daniel Snyder will argue about tradition and how the name is traditional. OK Daniel, racism was traditional. Persecution of Native Americans was traditional. Anti-Semitism is traditional. Are these things right? No way. Just because something is traditional, it doesn't make it OK to continue with its use.

I think that Washington's name and usefulness (if there ever was any) has outlived its tradition. It must go. Let's say goodbye to this tradition. I think that the Washington football team and the fans that are fighting to keep its name are holding on to a tradition and identity that is outdated. It's time to change their identity and tradition.

If they don’t think that’s possible, they can look at the Baltimore Ravens who were a new team in 1996 and they have built an identity all their own.

I'm making the decision not to refer to Washington's nickname. I will refer to them as the Washington Football Team. I know I'm not famous or a bigwig but sometimes it takes a lot of little guys/women to make a difference. I think it's the right thing to do.

Sources: SPORTSLOGOS.net, BBC News.



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