Goodell on Redskins name change: Ultimately, it's Dan Snyder's decision By John Breech



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Goodell on Redskins name change: Ultimately, it's Dan Snyder's decision

By John Breech | CBSSports.com

September 11, 2013 7:55 pm ET

Dan Snyder is the only one with the power to change the Redskins name. (USATSI)

Roger Goodell's stance on the Washington Redskins team nickname appears to be softening a little. Back in June, Goodell wrote a letter to Congress defending the Redskins team nickname, calling it "a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect."

On Tuesday, Goodell told WJFK-FM in Washington D.C. that if fans are offended, the league needs to listen. However, don't look for the league to jump in on the issue because Goodell also said the name change is one person's decision and that person is Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.

"If one person's offended, we have to listen," Goodell said, via the DC Sports Bog. "And ultimately, it is Dan [Snyder]'s decision. But it is something that I want all of us to go out and make sure we're listening to our fans, listening to people who have a different view, and making sure that we continue to do what's right to make sure that team represents the strong tradition that it has for so many years."

There's definitely at least one group of people in Wisconsin offended: A Wisconsin tribe will be at the Packers-Redskins game on Sunday to protest the Redskins team name. However, the protest will probably have little effect on Snyder, who said in May that he "will never change the name of the team."

If Snyder's not willing to change the team's name, it seems like Goodell is basically saying the league can't do anything about it.

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Sylvia Thompson

September 15, 2013



On the Redskins name controversy

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By Sylvia Thompson

I am not a football fan, but I am an American citizen who is thoroughly fed-up with the progressive left and political correctness. I read that the Washington Redskins football team owner, Daniel Snyder, is being pressured to change the team's name, because it may be offensive to American Indians.

Side note: I view every American who was born in this country, who has centuries of history on this soil, as "native American." I am a native American, with over two-hundred years of heritage passed on from my ancestors, who were brought here from Africa. That the term should be applied to only one segment of the American populace is a misuse of that term.

Yes, natives were here when Europeans came, but those natives came from somewhere, themselves. There is no plausible proof that any group of people on American soil was on it from its creation. Everybody here came from somewhere else.

To the issue of who claims it, I say that only the group who was strong enough to occupy and hold it can make that claim. Nations are built on that premise. People without a safe place to thrive have throughout history sought out safe haven in other lands. If they found such a place, either they ingratiated themselves to the current occupants, or they mustered the force to take over that land. Whoever was strongest, took possession. Vanquished people then decided whether they would meld with the victors and take advantage of the positives that they afforded (Japan being an example) or they isolated themselves from the victors (American Indians being an example). That is, if the victors chose not to destroy the vanquished. History is replete with such destruction. America chose not to destroy.

Bleeding hearts can whine and moan over the atrocities that accompany such survival tactics, but those tactics are the way of human existence.

Now, to the issue of the team name. I heard the football league commissioner, Roger Goodell's comment that if only one person was offended by the name "Redskins," the league should "consider" a change. If he meant that statement, I pity the man that he can be so easily manipulated. I also heard that the owner, Daniel Snyder, refuses to be manipulated in such a fashion. It seems that the Redskins' stadium is full to capacity when they play, and on that statistic, Mr. Snyder can rest his case.

A BBC News Magazine online article by Tom Geoghegan (posted 9/13/2013) deals with the history of the term "redskins." Apparently it was used by natives in America to distinguish themselves from Europeans. This tidbit comes from Ives Goddard, senior linguist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. That a term used by the natives themselves would be derogatory does not make any sense, Goddard points out. And he is correct.

That said, the term took on a derogatory nature sometime during the 19th Century, according to the article. The football team adopted the name in 1933 when co-owner George Preston Marshall renamed the Boston Braves the Redskins, and the name followed the team to Washington.

History aside, what we are dealing with now is an attempt to dictate to a private owner (Daniel Snyder) how he must handle his private property (a football team). Until Snyder sees that the team's fans are leaving the stands in droves over a ginned-up controversy perpetrated by the liberal left, then I suggest that he hold his ground.

There will be those who offer, "Suppose somebody named a team Sambos or Uncle Toms?" To that statement, my first response would be that those terms have no history of representing anything but the denigration of black people. Redskins, on the other hand, in its use today, references masculine bravery as represented by fighting native warriors. My next response would be that, as a black person, I am not affected by such names. I know who and what I am, and what I am called is irrelevant.

Interestingly, I am called "black," although my skin tone is brown, and I do not take issue with that term. I can personally testify, however, that when I was a child, the term "black" was considered derogatory. You could call your little friends any obnoxious, nasty name under the sun, but "black" merited more punishment than the others.

Indians are neither red-skinned nor are they called "red" by anybody today. Why, then, is there an issue? Especially since the few instances of the name (as with the Redskins team) are in reference to manliness and bravery. I have seen no statistical proof that a majority of Indians are offended by that term. And it is very clear that the fans of the Redskins are not offended, or they would avoid the games.

This situation brings to mind an interview that I saw on television many years ago with Maria Tallchief, the great American ballerina. The commentator asked her if she minded being called "Indian," to which she replied, no. Upon her death in April of this year, Jack Anderson related this interesting story in a 4/12/2013 article in the New York Times online Dance section. Growing up at a time when many American dancers adopted Russian stage names, Ms. Tallchief, proud of her Indian heritage, refused to do so, even though friends told her that it would be easy to transform Tallchief into Tallchieva. I wonder how many more Tallchiefs are out there.

I advise my fellow native Americans (Indians) to get a grip. To whatever degree you are offended by the name Redskins, the offense is not worth the effort. The liberal left needs you as their victims as much as they need blacks. Do not play their game, because you are of no interest to them, otherwise. Only their agenda matters.

© Sylvia Thompson

Norton on NFL Commissioner: He Knows ‘Redskins’ Sullies NFL’s Good Name

by Chris Lingebach

September 13, 2013 3:32 PM

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) - Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is encouraged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has begun the process of shifting his tone on the Redskins name debate.

“Roger Goodell knows that a disparaging name for a NFL team implicates the league and its good name,” Holmes Norton said in a press release on Friday.

Goodell, who admittedly grew up a Redskins fan in the D.C. area, spoke candidly on the issue to 106.7 The Fan’s Lavar and Dukes Wednesday, saying, “if one person is offended, we have to listen.”

This was a seismic shift from his previous stance on the team’s name. In June, Goodell responded to a letter from Holmes Norton and nine other members of Congress urging him to change the name, by saying ‘Redskins’ is a “unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

The Congressional letter labeled the name ‘Redskins’ as a “derogatory slur,” likening it to the “N-word among African Americans or the W-word among Latinos.”

“[Goodell] may be alert to the fact that on four separate occasions, the Patent and Trademark Office has refused to register any trademark containing the name ‘Redskins’ on grounds of disparagement,” Holmes Norton said Friday. “And that but for a technicality, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruling in 1999 that the name was offensive under federal trademark law already would have succeeded in causing a name change.”

“The legal handwriting is on the wall, and Goodell’s statement makes clear that this issue has become troublesome to the National Football League,” Holmes Norton continued. “The team is so loved by us all in this region that it is inconceivable that a name change to eliminate an ethnic slur would diminish admiration.”

“Particularly, in the team’s multi-ethnic region, the reasons for the change would be embraced,” she concluded.

Holmes Norton is scheduled to address the issue with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 8 a.m., which can be viewed on ESPN2.



Will Controversial Sports Team Names Be Gone in Five Years?

Prominent Native-American activist says 'Yes' By David Gianatasio

Could the National Football League’s Washington Redskins and other pro teams with names that some groups and individuals find offensive shed those monikers sooner rather than later. Say, perhaps, in the next five years?

As voices for change continue to rise, and more media outlets—including Peter King’s MMQB—refuse to use the Redskins name in coverage, some experts see nomenclature shifts on the horizon.

Suzan Shown Harjo, a prominent Native-American activist and author, predicts that along with the Redskins, the Braves and Indians’ monikers in Major League Baseball and the Blackhawks’ name in the National Hockey League will be “all gone in five years.”

And she’s fervently rooting for “the tipping point” to be reached so that team owners will be left with no other choice.

“It’s time for professional teams to get with the program and understand what’s happening with society,” says Harjo, who serves as president of the Morning Star Institute, a Native-American rights group. “All of them (the potentially offensive names) have to go.”

The thorny issue seems to spike every year as the new NFL season arrives—and 2013 is no different. As the Redskins kicked off their season yesterday on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, losing 33-27 to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Oneida Nation launched radio spots in Washington, D.C., criticizing the Redskins’ name.

In the first ad to air, the Oneidas’ Ray Halbritter commends NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for denouncing racially charged language as “obviously wrong, insensitive and unacceptable” when Eagles player Riley Cooper used a slur against African-Americans this summer. Halbritter challenges Goodell “to stand up to bigotry again. He can denounce the racial slur in the team name of the Washington Redskins. That word, ‘Redskins,’ is not a harmless term. The commissioner can and should use the same words he used to describe the Eagles’ player.”

The Redskins declined Adweek’s request for comment, though team owner Dan Snyder famously told USA Today: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Associated Press that the Redskins’ name “has always intended to be positive and has always been used by the team in a highly respectful manner.”

Risk communications consultant Peter Sandman begs to differ: “I think there’s no way to keep that from being offensive, no way to use a slur ‘in a highly respectful manner’ … Despite the transition costs, and the possible disappointment of some fans, there’s a lot more to be gained than lost by changing the team name.”

Sandman says the Redskins’ name “will be gone in less than five years,” adding that “the sooner the team responds, the more credit it will get for responding.”

As for the Braves, Indians and Blackhawks, he believes they “may earn the right to keep their names.  If not, they’ll be gone too, in five to 10 years.”

The Indians declined to comment, while the Braves and Blackhawks did not immediately respond to Adweek’s queries.

One key from a PR standpoint, Sandman says, is for any team using Native American names “to find ways to ensure that its decision to do so does more good than harm in the opinion of the people whose name it is appropriating.”

Tom Megginson, creative director at Acart Communications, and a widely read blogger on social-issues media at Osocio, agrees that, “if the appropriation bothers Native Americans, then I think people should listen to them,” though he understands the resistance of teams and their supporters.

“I’ve talked to Washington fans online, and many of them are galvanized,” he says. “The ‘bad PR’ just makes them fight the haters harder, because team loyalty can overwhelm logic, decency and common sense. That’s just human nature, whether it be war, politics or professional sports.”

Are You Ready For Some Controversy? The History Of 'Redskin'
by Lakshmi Gandhi

Monday Night Football kicks off this evening with the Washington Redskins facing off against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field. As the Redskins start a new season, they are once again in the center of a national debate about their name.

On Thursday, the Oneida Indian Nation in upstate New York announced the launch of a radio ad campaign urging the team to change its moniker. The ad begins with an Oneida leader commending NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for condemning the behavior of Eagles player Riley Cooper, after Cooper was recorded using the N-word at a concert this summer. While the narrator applauds the NFL for taking swift action in the Cooper case, he then draws a parallel between that slur and the word "redskin." "We do not deserve to be called redskins," he says in the ad. "We deserve to be treated as what we are — Americans." The spots began airing in the D.C. market on Sunday. (You can listen to it in full here.)

The Oneida campaign is just the latest protest this year against the Redskins' name. The online magazine Slate made headlines last month when it declared the site will no longer use "Redskins" to refer to the franchise, choosing instead to refer to "the Washington NFL team" from now on. Slate isn't alone: The New Republic and Mother Jones quickly followed suit. Major news sources like The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Associated Press, however, will continue to refer to the team as the "Redskins" this season.

But where did the word "redskin" come from? Many dictionaries and history books say the term came about in reference to the Beothuk tribe of what is now Newfoundland, Canada. The Beothuk were said to paint their bodies with red ochre, leading white settlers to refer to them as "red men."

According to Smithsonian historian Ives Goddard, early historical records indicate that "Redskin" was used as a self-identifier by Native Americans to differentiate between the two races. Goddard found that the first use of the word "redskin" came in 1769, in negotiations between the Piankashaws and Col. John Wilkins. Throughout the 1800s, the word was frequently used by Native Americans as they negotiated with the French and later the Americans. The phrase gained widespread usage among whites when James Fenimore Cooper used it in his 1823 novel The Pioneers. In the book, Cooper has a dying Indian character lament, "There will soon be no red-skin in the country."



The Pioneers and other books by Cooper were largely seen as sympathetic toward Native Americans and their struggles in the 1800s. Decades later, the word "redskin" began to take on a negative, increasingly violent connotation. Author L. Frank Baum, best known for his classic The Wizard of Oz, celebrated the death of Sitting Bull and the massacre at Wounded Knee with a pair of editorials calling for the extermination of all remaining Native Americans. In one of the December 1890 pieces, Baum wrote, "With his fall the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them."

At around the same time the word "redskin" was becoming a word with negative connotations, other Native American words and images were becoming increasingly popular symbols for sports teams. In an article for the North Dakota Law Review, J. Gordon Hylton found that team owners frequently began using words with indigenous connections in the 1850s. "Native American names appear to have been chosen to emphasize the 'Americanness' of the team and its patriotic character," writes Hylton, without noting that at the same time popular culture was relegating Native Americans to the foreign and the extreme.

While Cooper's portrayal of Native Americans in books like The Pioneers was sympathetic, the portrayal of Indians created a backlash of sorts. In 1915, the poet Earl Emmons released Redskin Rimes, a book so offensive I had to double-check to make sure it wasn't a parody of the racism of that era. Emmons makes his intentions clear in the introduction of the work: "Those persons who got their idea of the Indian from Mr. Cooper have pictured him as an injured innocent. ... Those persons have acquired the wrong idea of the maroon brother." That introduction kicks off a series of poems, songs and speeches, each more offensive than the last.

Emmons' book was emblematic of the usage of the word "redskins" in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as the word went from being an identifying term to a derogatory slur. By the 1910s, it wasn't uncommon for filmgoers to encounter it, with the word frequently popping up in the titles of American Westerns.

The hit film Redskin (1929) was notable for two reasons: first, that it was one of the first films to use Technicolor; and secondly, that the script was surprisingly sympathetic toward its main character, a Navajo Indian who is constantly harassed because of his race. The portrayal of Native Americans in Redskin was very much ahead of its time — other films that used the word portrayed the culture as primitive and war-hungry. The 1932 Tom and Jerry cartoon "Redskin Blues" follows the beloved characters as they are attacked by Indians, surviving after they are rescued by the U.S. Army.

Just a year after that stereotype-laden Tom and Jerry cartoon was released, Boston Braves owner George Preston Marshall decided in 1933 to change the franchise's name from the Braves (another name with a racial history) to the Redskins. Team lore says the franchise adopted the name in honor of former coach William "Lone Star" Dietz, who identified as Native American. Dietz brought several Native American players he had coached at the Haskell Indian School with him to the team. Marshall also sought to strongly tie the team to Native American imagery, occasionally requiring Dietz to wear a Sioux headdress on the sidelines and telling players to wear war paint while on the field.

The cover of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Sunday supplement from January 1908 shows William "Lone Star" Dietz, who in 1916 coached Washington State University to a Rose Bowl victory, in full Indian dress. Some credit Dietz with inspiring the name of the Redskins.

The cover of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Sunday supplement from January 1908 shows William "Lone Star" Dietz, who in 1916 coached Washington State University to a Rose Bowl victory, in full Indian dress. Some credit Dietz with inspiring the name of the Redskins.

AP

Five years later, the team unveiled its fight song, "Hail to the Redskins," with lyrics written by Marshall's wife, actress Corinne Griffith. The original lyrics to the song included both references to scalping and pidgin English, with the line "Scalp 'em, swamp 'em — we will take 'em big score / Read 'em, weep 'em, touchdown! — we want heap more!"



The word began to fade from everyday usage in the 1960s (though songs like the 1960 Richie Allen track "Redskin" would occasionally be released). As Ian Crouch recently pointed out in The New Yorker, "since 1971, nearly two-thirds of professional and amateur athletic teams bearing Native American iconography have made a change."

Recent months have seen several athletes and other sports figures speak out about the name, as well. In July, Redskins Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Art Monk spoke with the D.C. radio station WTOP.

"[If] Native Americans feel like Redskins or the Chiefs or [another] name is offensive to them, then who are we to say to them, 'No, it's not?' " Monk said. Green agreed, saying, "It deserves and warrants conversation because somebody is saying, 'Hey, this offends me,' and then you have a conversation."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the team is based in Washington, many elected officials have also weighed in. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said earlier this year that the name has become "a lightning rod" and that the team would have to seriously consider changing the name if it wished to move from Maryland back into the District in the future. The mayor seems to also have a self-imposed ban on saying the name of the team, merely referring to it as "our football team" in his 2013 State of the District address. Members of Congress have also spoken out against the name, with a bipartisan group sending a letter to the team urging a name change.

And when the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian hosted a symposium on Indian mascots in February, museum director Kevin Gover, himself a Native American, said the word was "the equivalent of the N-word." At the same event, former Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell asked the crowd to consider an equally offensive name for the local sports team: "How you would like for us to change the name of that team to the Washington Darkies?"

For his part, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has been vocal in his support for the name and has insisted that it's here to stay. "We'll never change the name," Snyder told USA Today in May. "It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."



Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo has been battling the Redskins over the name for more than 20 years. "The name is one of the last vestiges of racism that is held right out in the open in America," Harjo said in a recent phone conversation. "It's a toy of racism, and the people who are holding on [to the name] for dear life, they know that."

But do they really? A Washington Post poll from June revealed that 8 out of 10 fans believe the team should keep its name. However, you shouldn't expect to hear those same fans use the word in nonfootball conversations. Over half of those questioned agreed that the word "redskin" is an inappropriate term to describe Native Americans.

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