Friday, November 6, 2009

Inner sadness & conflict

I was born in Arlington, VA, and lived in Alexandria until the ripe old age of six. Some of my earliest memories were watching Redskins football games with my parents, in the glory days of QB Billy Kilmer and coach George Allen. I also remember owning back then a white sweatshirt with the classic Redskins "R" helmet logo, a shirt that might be worth a buck or two these days, even if it did have adolescent drool all over it.

I grew up in coastal Oregon and was the only fan of the Redskins I knew. I clung to my identity as a Redskins fan living on a former Native American reservation surrounded by fans of the 49ers, Steelers, Chargers, Broncos, Raiders.

I didn't think about the fundamentally offensive name of my favorite team until about five years ago. Now I'm a bit sad that the push to get the team to change its name seems to be highly improbable.

My inner conflict is: Will my team still be my team even with a different name?

Washington Post sportswriter Mike Wise got it right in September when he wrote that the "Last Word on 'Redskins' Is Not Ours". I interpret "Ours" to mean "Americans of European descent."

Alas, I'll get over a name change, if it ever were to happen. It's only a game.



  1. My grandmother was a full blooded native american. She would only watch football team, she never understood the game, but she loved that team. She was a Redskin fan till the day she died.
    I work on a reservation and a tribal member. I have yet to meet someone from my tribe that found the name offensive.
    It like anything else, its all about the context and how its said. I've been called chief before, I responded with a smile and a handshake and the other resulted in a fight.

  2. This is an interesting point. I guess in some sense I am being a bit reactive in my lamentations that an pejorative ethnic characterization could continue to be the mascot of a football team, but, as you identify, there seem to be many Native Americans themselves who don't see this moniker as pejorative. Hmmm.

    Advocates of the name change claim that "redskin" is as pejorative as "spick" or "darkey" or "chink." Do you, or anyone with Native American heritage, see it like this?

    One commenter on some website I read urged the Redskins to pursue a path similar to what the Florida State Seminoles have done -- they worked with the tribe to get their permission, so now the Seminole tribe takes pride in supporting the school. The idea I heard was that the Washington NFL team work with a local tribe in this same way -- the Washington Cherokees, for example.