At the beginning of just about every football season there is discussion and protest over the name of the Washington Redskins. This year is no different, but we can hope for a different outcome than we have seen in years past.
The Washington football team is not the only one with racial connotations (looking at you Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks) but the “Redskins” are the focus of the issue right now.
Some have argued that historically “redskin” was actually used by Native Americans as a self identifier. You can read more about the history of the word here.
Okay, so it used to be used in a certain way, but do you know what? That still doesn’t give anyone a pass on using a racial term and a logo of a distinct ethnic group to depict a sporting team. Beyond that, as words in any language do, over time the meaning has changed and in about the 1900s it went from being an identifier to being a derogatory term. Today, it is a derogatory term.
Before the game Monday, the Oneida Nation ran a radio spot denouncing the team name as a racial slur. The spot has been reposted and retweeted all over, bringing even more attention to the issue. You can read their statement on it here. Recently Slate magazine has said they will not use the name anymore, as has Mother Jones and a number of other publications. One of the most known sports reporters, Peter King, has said he will no longer be using the name. All the same team owner Dan Snyder has said the team will NEVER (yes he told reporters to put it in caps) change its name.
I have to wonder if a name like this would pass review for a team today. My gut instinct is that it wouldn’t, why? It is blatantly racist. I don’t care what the history and tradition of the team name is, the name is racist. What is in a name? Everything. It is how you are identified and thus becomes a part of your identity.
We talk a lot about brand recognition in a digital age in the MCDM program. Yes when you look at it from a marketing and communications standpoint, yes, a name and a logo are a part of brand recognition. You need to ask though at what cost? If your brand is built on a racial slur, is that really how you want to identify your team? your brand? Yes, most fans say they want the name to say the same…but I wonder how many of those fans would use the word outside of a football context.
It is going to be interesting to see if the movement against the name gets more steam with the amplification of social media. I have seen more tweets and posts on it than I have ever seen in years past. Then again as recently as 2009 the Supreme Court declined to hear the case about the name. Maybe the signal boost will help bring more attention to the issue and finally get some movement.
Here is the point: The history of the team using the name doesn’t matter what matters is the people the term is a slur against. If your company is using a name that refers to an ethnic group, and that group says it is inappropriate and hurts them? Who are you to argue with it? Are you saying your sports team’s history and tradition are more important than that of an entire nation? Get over yourself, suck it up Dan Snyder and change your team’s name.