Fans and journalists discuss Redskins controversy

By Morgan Eichensehr on October 13, 2013

Five sports journalists unanimously agreed that the name of Washington, D.C., NFL football team is “offensive” and should be changed during a panel discussion at the University of Maryland on Wednesday, October 2.

Whether the Washington Redskins should be renamed has been a topic of debate for some time. Several sports columnists and commentators weighed in on this issue at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

“I will say the first word, but not the second,” said ABC commentator and USA Today columnist Christine Brennan.

She wrote a column recently describing how she would no longer be using the name “Redskins” to describe Washington’s football team.

“I think it’s a very serious issue.”

Mike Wise, a columnist for The Washington Post, said he personally went through an evolution on the matter. He said that in speaking with several Native Americans about the controversy, he realized that the team name was seen as quite offensive to them.

“I would not have gotten on this bandwagon if I hadn’t talked to American Indians about it,” said Wise.

“For them, it means something deeper.”

According to a recent poll by The Washington Post, 56 percent of Washington residents surveyed think that “redskin” is an offensive term toward Native Americans, but 66 percent said that they did not want the NFL team’s name to be changed.

On a national scale, only 11 percent of Americans think the team should be renamed, according to an AP Poll cited in the Huffington Post.

Dave Zirin, sports commentator for “The Nation” and “Edge of Sports Radio” said that he is tired of people asking him why he thinks the name is a slur.

“I always answer: I don’t think it’s a slur, Webster’s Dictionary thinks it’s a slur,” said Zirin.

Maryland resident Allison Adams agreed and said she thinks the name definitely ought to be changed, simply because it is “racist.”

Zirin noted that only about 0.6 percent of the Washington D.C. population is Native Americans and said that there is a history of insensitivity toward them in America and it has to stop. He asked if people didn't think that the term “redskins” was offensive then what would they say about “blackskins” or “brownskins.”

“I’m Jewish,” said Zirin.

“I wouldn't want a team called ‘Jew-skins.’”

Merrill College instructor and “Around the Horn” panelist Kevin Blackistone said that he thinks the name will eventually be changed, if not under social pressure, then under legal pressure.

About 82 percent of Washington residents said that changing the Redskins’ name “wouldn't make much difference,” according to the Washington Post poll.

“While I agree that the team's name should change, there are two bigger issues: what would that mean for teams like the Atlanta Braves or the Cleveland Indians,” said Maryland public school teacher and NFL fan Melissa Purdy.

“And what do you do with the die-hard Washington fans, who don't want to change the team's name and their decade’s worth of Redskins gear? Those things need to be figured out first.”

Wise argued that a name change could actually generate more revenue for the football team in the long run, but said that he didn't expect team owner Dan Snyder to do anything about it anytime soon.

“I think he’s one of those people that would rather be right than happy,” said Wise.

Even President Obama weighed in on this dispute last Saturday, according to The Washington Post.

“If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it,” Obama said in an interview published by the Associated Press.

I am a sophomore journalism student at University of Maryland with a minor in Middle Eastern studies. I love writing and sharing information with others through my stories. My personal goal is to learn at least one new thing every single day. My hobbies include running, watching lots of movies,dancing, acting, eating, singing, and spending lots of time in Washington D.C. I love news and hope to be a foreign correspondent someday.

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