What’s in a Racist, Offensive Name? No Redskins, It’s Your Logo

The Washington Post’s Courtland Milloy’s recent editorial about the Redskins racist and patently offensive name is just another salvo in an otherwise fruitless venture.  Every year, some member of the press or a civil right organization takes up this mantle.  The courts and other government agencies have agreed with the franchise.  Polls indicate that most Native Americans either don’t care or are not offended by the Redskins name.

From what I understand, the name is so anachronistic that when the word ‘Redskin’ is used in parlance, nearly everyone understands that the one using the word is talking about a football player.  Regardless, each successive time the name is challenged, we are no closer to a name-change.  The Redskins stay the Redskins.

What is blantantly more obvious to this intrepid blogger is that the name itself isn’t the biggest problem.  It’s the blatantly offensive logo that needs to go.  The featherheaded “Indian” on the helmet is patently worse than the name.  The visual is what makes the name a hundred times worse.  The incredibly stereotyped version of Native American culture the logo embodies is straight out of the ’50s even though it was introduced in 1972.

Tradition sometimes gets in the way of true progress.  Symbols are the most effective way to show loyalty, camaraderie, even fanaticism to a cause.  A symbol becomes part of a tradition once the cause it represents maintains an attachment to it.  This could not be more true in modern times than in sports, particularly American sports.  Sports logos are everywhere and used not just to comport loyalty but to bring in dollars.  This marketing connection is even stronger when you consider when old logos are necessary – and expendable.

Old logos are typically washed away in favor of new logos to promote a new tradition in the face of flailing, unsuccessful franchises.  NFL examples of completely changed logos in the past 15 years or so: Broncos, Bucs and Pats.  But also think of the franchises that made subtle changes recently: Cardinals, Seahawks, Falcons and Lions.  After the Rams won the Super Bowl, the Ram horns turned gold.  To maintain continuity with tradition, Tennessee kept the old Houston Oilers colors.  Both New York teams scuttled logos they used for years in favor of even older ones.  My point is that changing the logo wouldn’t be blasphemy, it would usher in a new sense of destiny and direction.

The old spearhead that the Redskins occasionally use, or a variant of it, would be a perfect replacement.  If not, create a new logo.  Think about the dollars Mr. Synder.  Every Redskins fan in the DC area will have to buy all new s***.  Talk about creating new traditions.  The Broncos changed everything in 1997.  They won the Super Bowl – that year.  New England killed off Pat Patriot after 1992.  How’s that working out for them?  The Redskins need to do this.

A logo, after all, is just a logo.  Coincidences such as the Broncos aside, the Redskins should implement this idea.  The Redskins need a new identity.  Since Joe Gibbs retired the first time, Washington has qualified for the playoffs just three times in 18 seasons, never reaching 11 wins or the NFC Championship.  Three playoff wins, just a tease what could have been.  This, as opposed to the previous 18 season when the Redskins went to the postseason 9 times, winning 3 times in 4 Super Bowl appearances.  This doesn’t include the early 1970s (1971-4), when the Skins went 40-15-1 and made the playoffs four straight years, only to loss to the undefeated ’72 Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.

To sum up, some team names are not racist but they are patently offensive.  Take for example the Washington Wizards.  I remember the day the rename was announced and was horrified.  The name is God-awful and everyone knows it.  You felt, beyond any doubt, that the team would stink from there on out.  And so far, what has come of the Wizards?  Absolutely nothing.  They were awful as the Bullets and they are awful as the Wizards.  Maybe if the team embraced a better name and a more forceful logo I could get on-board rooting for them.  For now, I will continue to campaign that anything Wizards must go.

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