Last week, the Cleveland Indians announced they would no longer be using their controversial Chief Wahoo logo starting in the 2019 season and instead be using a generic red block-C as their main logo. The Wahoo logo was a caricature of a Native American with red skin smiling with large teeth.
It has been a center of debate for years as acceptance of casual racism by promoting, quite literally in this case, a stereotype for financial benefits. Cleveland’s decision to cease using it as their main logo is a step in the right direction which is not to be politically correct but to be caring for a group of people that suffered numerous atrocities in their past.
The decision also has forced the spotlight on a franchise in the NFL: the Washington Redskins. With Chief Wahoo now out of the race, the Redskins name remains the biggest example of racism that should no longer be accepted in modern society. The name should be removed because it is one of the last remaining vestiges of racism being not only prevalent in professional sports but accepted by the general public.
Before we continue, let me address the inevitable pushback on this article. No, I’m not a triggered liberal snowflake. Today’s political climate has become so poisonous to the point where calling for a slur to be removed is seen as part of an overall agenda that limits free speech. To be clear, wanting the name removed has to do with being empathetic of a culture that deserves respect and while the word “racism” has turned into a common liberal attack; this is a case where the word is absolutely warranted.
The Redskin name has been one of the main sources of bad publicity for the NFL, something the league tries to avoid like the plague. Despite this, owner Dan Snyder has refused to change the name, citing a now 14-year-old poll that said most Native Americans are not offended by the name. The problem with that study is the question was stated in a confusing manner and there were no follow-up questions to prove those who were questioned were of a majority Native American heritage. Combine this with the fact support for social change with things like same-sex marriage has a proven record of increasing over time so why would this be any different?
Snyder penned a letter to season ticket holders in 2013 saying he has kept the name to preserve the tradition of Native Americans. The problem with this is there is no evidence of a particular pride in being called a Redskin. Meanwhile, mascots like the Cleveland Indians, the Florida State Seminoles and others manage to remind the public of Native American history without using an alleged slur.
Why is it a slur? The answer to that is a simple one. Put any other color that could allude to a race in front of the word “skin” and see if it seems racist. I would do it for you but it would be deemed too offensive to publish. So if we can’t put yellow, black or brown in front of the word “skin” for a team name then why should red be any different?
The thing is the logo of the Redskins isn’t insensitive within itself. It is an accurate portrayal of an Indian chief. So changing the name would simply mean just that. Just change the name to something like “The Washington Indians” and the controversy dies.
That raises the question of how would that affect the business side of the Redskins organization? A New York Times editorial by two professors from Emory University showed teams that have changed their names and mascot have actually benefitted financially in the long-term. A Washington Post article cited a branding expert saying it would cost the team around $5 million to change the name. The estimated net worth of the Redskins is $1.5 billion.
That brings up the next concern of changing the name which is the “slippery slope” argument of if we change this name, it opens the door for so much bad. The issue with that argument is evident by all the mascots currently in sports that have no controversy. The majority wasn’t arguing against the Cleveland Indians name, just the logo. Very rarely do you see people protest the Florida State Seminoles. It’s clear that this is a non-existent fear pushed by those who don’t want the Redskins name changed. It’s clear you can have a name alluding to Native Americans, just one that isn’t a slur.
So the last argument remaining is “why does this matter?” A team name may seem insignificant to some given other issues in today’s world but that’s also not a valid concern. The thought process of “it doesn’t matter to me, so why does it matter at all,” could apply to things like world hunger, the Zika virus and other things that you probably won’t be affected by yet still matter. Simply because it doesn’t affect you or there are bigger issues to deal with does not mean it is an issue that should be ignored.
Progress needs to be made where it can and it is not a decision that will negatively affect Washington so why not change it? The name is one deemed offensive by a significant amount of people and can be changed. So the question remaining is why don’t they?
Tad Desai covers sports and education for The Sealy News. He can be reached at 979-885-3562 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.