Good Riddance

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Redskin {red-skin}

noun Older Slang: Disparaging and Offensive

*a contemptuous term used to refer to North American Indian

My friend Jerry wrote an excellent post last week, reminding us that it’s not only black lives that matter when it comes to systemic racism in our country. Native Americans know a few things about hundreds of years of denigration, prejudice, and yes, genocide. I want to expand upon Jerry’s theme from a different perspective.

It finally happened. After years of vehement refusal to ever change the name of his NFL team, Owner Dan Snyder finally decided to retire the Washington Redskins. No longer will the name or logo ever grace the uniforms of their football players. The new name, at present still under discussion, will replace the old one for the upcoming 2020 season.

In 2013, Snyder famously said that he’d NEVER change the name. Yes, all caps is how he wanted it described when quoting him. But never say never, as the saying goes. And, of course, never underestimate the power of the almighty dollar. Because I’m sure if he had his druthers, that name would be forever part of his legacy and the team’s legacy for generations to come.

But when FedEx (my former employer for 28 years) informed Mr. Snyder that they could no longer sponsor the team if they kept the Redskins name, and other companies such as Nike followed suit, the proverbial handwriting was on the wall for Snyder. The only thing more shocking than him finally agreeing to change the name, is the swiftness at which the whole thing transpired.

The idea that FedEx would step forward to make such a statement on the name change is a prime example of how fast things are changing. The company’s founder and Chairman, Fred Smith, is no liberal by any means. A lifelong supporter of Republican policies and candidates, Smith decided that he needed to be on the right side of history on this issue, and kudos to him for doing so, regardless of whether that was his real motivation. The same goes for Dan Snyder.

The killing of George Floyd changed everything. The protests and outrage stemming from that murder spanned the globe and opened a robust debate surrounding not just how we should police our streets but also how systemic racism continues unabated in our economy, education systems, housing policies, and yes, even sports.

The sporting world have always found themselves in the middle of social, political, and racial issues over the years. This time is no different. Whether it was Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier as the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, or Tommy Smith and John Carlos raising their gloved fists at the podium ceremony for their gold medals at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, athletes have, at times, played significant roles in moving us to a more just society.

The changing of racially insensitive names and logos of sports teams follows along that same path. Washington is doing the right thing, albeit much too late. And it appears that a team I’m very familiar with is contemplating a major change as well.

The Cleveland Indians baseball team followed Dan Snyder’s proclamation of an impending name change for his Washington franchise with a statement that they too, were strongly considering changing their team nickname.

The Indian’s front office’s announcement follows on the heels of their decision to permanently remove the offensive, racist logo Chief Wahoo from team uniforms in 2019. You could still go to the team’s website store and order a jersey with the Wahoo logo for several months after removal from official team uniforms. But when I checked the website a short time ago, the Chief was nowhere to be found.

Much like Dan Snyder, current Indians owner Paul Dolan also proclaimed in the past his reluctance to ever change the name of the team or the logo. However, he’s been a bit more receptive to it than his father Larry, who was adamant when running the team that it would never happen. Once again, never say never.

To say this issue is divisive in Northeast Ohio would be an understatement. When you talk about political hot button issues in the area, this one was always near the top. Lifelong fans, especially those who grew up with the team and lived in the area, had difficulty parting ways with Chief Wahoo. In recent years, opening day became tense and ugly between fans and Native American groups who would always gather near the front entrance with signs demanding the team change its name and logo.

Many current Cleveland baseball fans will take it out on the team and never go to a game again if they follow through and change the team’s nickname. Banning the logo is one thing, but removing the team name might be a bridge too far for some. Others, though, will adjust and move on.

But it’s undoubtedly a sign of the times. Little by little, perhaps our society is finally getting it right. We’re getting rid of racist traitor statues all over the country. Maybe even the names of some of our military facilities will also suffer the same fate.

And while the Black Lives Movement reminds us of the historical bigotry and injustice leveled at the African-American community, we also cannot forget about the marginalization of other minority groups. The senseless killing of George Floyd has proved to be the catalyst for taking a look at all forms of racism.

I’d ask you to take a look at the featured image for this post. Both will soon be mere footnotes in history, whose longevity endured despite years of protest and division. To that, I say good riddance. Their time was up a long time ago. But 2020 is proving to be one of those years where it seems as though anything is possible, be it for good—or not.

And it does appear that the Cleveland Indians are about to replicate the actions of the Washington Redskins. What was once considered untouchable, is now a distinct possibility. No matter if your a sports fan or not, the fact is that a team’s nickname is synonymous with it’s host city, and in this case it’s been that way since 1915. That’s 105 years of history and tradition.

As a lifelong Cleveland Indian fan myself, I know about that history. I know what it’s like to feel attached to the team, and in effect, it’s name and logo. It took me a long time to realize how racist Chief Wahoo was, and how insulting it was to Native Americans. Getting rid of the Chief was the right thing to do. I’m ashamed it took me so long to figure that out. But the team name too?

As many Native American groups have said, if you leave the team name in place, some of the old traditions of Wahoo and other racist memorabilia would remain. Fans would continue to don headdresses and apply face paint. We’d also continue to witness the faux war chants and hand gestures (eg. the tomahawk chop), drum banging, and other forms of mockery. If you keep professional sports team names like the Indians, Blackhawks, Braves, and Chiefs, the insults to Native Americans would continue into eternity.

You know what? They’re right. It’s time to change them all.

What do you think?

 

29 comments

  1. I think it is long, long over due. But then I have a lot of relatives that have Native American blood. D.C. refused to have a black football player. When asked Marshall, the owner, said he never saw a black that could make the team. Since the TV cameras never focus on the stupid make up and tomahawk chops, I guess I haven’t kept up with the fans of the Indians and Braves. Fans boycott those teams just might cause the move to other cities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, way overdue. I wasn’t so sure the Indians name itself was in and of itself, racist. But, when you think about all the other racist crap surrounding the name…face paint, headdress, etc, then you see why it has to go too.

      Like

    2. In reply to a later comment of yours, If you cannot see how Indian is anymore racist than Viking, I must inform you that you are part of the systemic racism that hides behind the fact Columbus wrongfully named us Indians in 1492. He wanted so much to have discovered he could sail west to India that he called the ORIGINAL HUMAN INHABITANTS OF THE AREAS NOW KNOWN AS THE AMERICAS Indians. What arrogance!
      Only one people can rightfully be called Indians anywhere in this world, people whose ancestors were born in India. There are NO SUCH THING ON THE FACE OF THIS WORLD AS AMERICAN INDIANS, SOUTH AMERICAN INDIANS, CENTRAL AMERICAN INDIANS, OR ESPECIALLY NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS.
      At the time I am writing this we are the only race of people without an acceptable and UNINSULTING name. Our lands are NOT THE AMERICAS. That is as RACIST as any other name white Europeans have given to those not like them.
      I will very much like it if you NEVER use such racist terms again. EVER! Just remember, please, every time you call yourself American, you are committing racism, even if you don’t believe it.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Is Native American ok? Is Indigenous people acceptable? Please tell me how I’m to refer to those who’ve been here for thousands of years and I’ll do my best to always refer to that what you deem acceptable.

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      2. Nothing along those lines is acceptable. No race can stand to be named something by the ruling race. White Americans are the ruling race, They write the rules. But that does not make them right. Might isn’t right.
        I am a lone voice in the desert right not. What we are to be called is not up to me. Hell, I cannot even speak in one of my national tongues. Language was one of the first things to go. But I am not willing to give my people away. We are the ORIGINAL HUMAN INHABITANTS OF THE WESTERN CONTINENTS. Columbus never discovered the Americas, we lived here before there was ever an Italy or a Spain. That is historically accurate. And that is who we want to be, no one else.
        Thank you for listening.

        Like

  2. So many of these issues–racism, bigotry in general, and the refusal of many Trumpists to wear masks and observe proper health guidelines during this pandemic–tie back to the refusal of so many to empathize, to be willing to take even a moment to consider life from another person’s perspective. That self-centered lack of empathy is central to Trumpism. I know, I always find a way to criticize Trump. But he deserves criticism–and removal from office.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. All true Jerry. If you do a search on youtube for Cleveland Indians opening day protests..you will see the absolute worst of America. Fans and protestors going at it, with the fans shouting obscenities, doing mock war cries, and flipping protestors off. This is Trump’s world. This is what he loves. This is what he craves. It’s like, being a jerk is the point nowadays. That will be part of his awful and disgraceful legacy.

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  3. I grew up in the washington dc suburbs..and the redskin games were those we went to every fall. The name has ALWAYS bothered me. the rest of the family thought I was “stupid” for thinking it was racist. SO GLAD my idiot siblings now see a whole bunch of people agree with me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s taken such a long time Suze. But better late than never at all. Clearly, they’re doing this for economic reasons more than anything else. Whatever. What matters in the long run is that they’re finally getting rid of the name. We can’t lose sight of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What do I think? I think you have written an excellent post, my friend. Heh heh … I started reading this early yesterday afternoon, but when I saw the link to Jerry’s post, I was puzzled, for somehow I had missed that one. I think I’m pulled in too many directions these days. Anyway, so I popped over to read Jerry’s and forgot to come back to yours until 1:30 this morning!

    I think that people like you and I meant no harm, but just didn’t think about the associations and how hurtful they were. Others, however, fully intended that hurt. I’m pleased by the Washington team’s intention to change the name … I thought they were to have announced it this past Monday, and I kept waiting to get a breaking news update, but still nothing. For Pete’s sake, it’s a name, not rocket science! Call them the Raindrops and let’s get over it! Sigh. Sorry, but I’m not into sports and it all seems a bit of a no-brainer to me.

    Are we, as a nation, waking up to what has become so mundane that we’ve never noticed? Maybe, but can we keep up the momentum until real change is made. The re-naming of a team, while admirable, is being done for financial purposes only and does not constitute the real change we need in this nation. We need change at the federal level, and most of all, we need change at the grassroots level … the people of this nation must set aside their prejudices and understand that white skin has nothing … NOTHING … to do with the person inside. Sigh.

    Again, excellent post, Jeff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jill. It absolutely is being done because of $$$$$ It’s the only thing these billionaires care about. When it starts to hit their bottom line, then they act. The FedEx CEO is a right-winger, through and through. But he made the determination that having his company name on the stadium(they paid for the rights for this…millions of dollars) and also having it associated with the racist name of the team, was bad for HIS bottom line too. So again, no benevolent acts by these guys. Money, money, money. That being said, getting rid of the name is a good thing, regardless. Time to put it on the ash heap and move on. Same with my team. Many Trumpsters and other bigots will yell and scream. The sports talk radio shows will let them vent about the rampant ‘political correctness’ overtaking America. So be it. Knowing they’re all pissed off about it makes me feel even better about the whole thing!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The right thing, but for all the wrong reasons. Sigh. Corporate greed will be the thing that keeps this nation from ever being what it ought to be, I think. Heh heh … yeah, I take some perverse pleasure in knowing they’re pissed off, too! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Correct Keith. We seem to move at a snail’s pace sometimes. But, progress is progress. It’s just really nice to see it finally.

      Like

  5. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    At long last, the name of Washington’s football team is to be changed to … ??? … they haven’t said yet. However, the fact that they are changing it, decades long overdue, is a positive sign. Our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters has written an enlightening post about it … take a look! Thanks, Jeff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jill! Nope, they haven’t announced it yet. Funny thing though, by getting a new name and new identity, the team’s gonna make a lot of $$$$$. Just the marketing alone. Yes, many fans are pissed but the bottom line is the bottom line to these gazillionaires. I’m sure the numbers crunchers told the owner it was much better to change the name. Otherwise, nothing would have changed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure, Jeff! I would have re-blogged it this morning, but … it’s Wednesday. If I don’t do my ‘good people’ post on Wednesday morning, my readers mutiny! Yes, of course they will make lots of money … that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it. Even college sports are no longer about sport, but about money. Kind of takes away from the idea of teamwork and having fun, doesn’t it?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes it does Jill. At least the conversation has shifted a bit in college athletics. Soon some of the athletes will be able to cash in, at least a little, on their likenesses, uniform numbers, and other marketable items. Finally. For years, the universities have exploited them. Again, progress…..slow as hell….but progress!!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Not a moment too soon Jeff,A country should be more sensitive about how it allowa it;a native inhabitants to be offended and it shouldn’t take aan outpouring of public opinion to bring it about,
    Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

      1. To American capitalists, it all about the money. However to most white Americans, it’s all about superiority. Believe this! Insult someone, and make yourself feel better than them, even when you are not!

        Liked by 1 person

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