Monday, October 14, 2013

Dump the Name "Redskins"......Now

To the left is my friend Ken Rhyne.  We grew up playing baseball against one another and ended up on the same team in the Cape Cod League in the late '60s (he was a professional baseball player in his 20s).  He was always a wonderful guy.  Ken has been, for decades, a nationally renowned Native American activist, he is the most respected Native American interior design architect in America, and he is a world-class Blues harmonica recording artist, with his own Blues band, which has won numerous national music awards. (I recommend googling him).

I honor and respect Ken's opinions and views on Native American affairs.  The last time I saw him, he was on CNN's "Crossfire" passionately debating in favor of ending the use of Native American references in all sports team names.  I am certain he feels passionately about the current discussion  regarding the use of "Redskins" in the Washington NFL name.

This is one of those issues that, for me, so quickly and clearly crystallized.  It took very little thought on my part.  My response and thought was nearly "visceral" in nature when Native American concern surfaced.  My thought went straight to my friend Ken Rhyne, to the beautiful example of his life's work.  I feel clearly and strongly in favor of ending the use of the term.

I like what my DJ friend Brad Krantz said.  "Bob Costas, as usual, is making sense. Just as he did in nailing Jerry Sandusky. Just as he did in addressing the gun culture of the NFL. It is not enough to defend "Redskins," just because they've had the name since the 1930's. Their fight song used to have the line, "fight for old Dixie" in it. That was changed to "old DC." The rule should be: if it's a word you wouldn't use to the face of the person being described, it's a slur and cannot be justified as a team nickname. You can call an Indian an Indian, or a Seminole if they're a Seminole, or you can say someone is Brave. The only time "Redskin" is used is in a John Wayne movie or if you want to start a (possibly) drunken bar fight with an Indian".

Lester Holt ended 'Nightly News' Sunday evening with, "Sunday Night football coming up, Washington versus the Dallas Cowboys".  'Redskins' is no longer used by nearly any journalists. A change is only a matter of time. If the name is of concern to any Native Americans, a change is overdue in my view. 

There are those who point out polls showing low numbers of Native Americans being concerned.  Well, understand this, "The problem with individuals claiming to be Native American when they are not is well known in academic research, and is a particular problem when non-natives claim Indian identity to gain authority in the debate over sports mascots." Springwood, Charles (02/2004). "I’m Indian Too!": Claiming Native American Identity, Crafting Authority in Mascot Debates. Journal of Sports and Social Issues. p. 56".

Here is Costas' full comment.  In addition, I refer you to a letter from Robert Brave Heart, Executive Vice President at Red Cloud Indian School in South Dakota, which once benefited from a fund set-up by then Washington Redskins executive, later coach, George Allen. 

Opposing views are welcome.  I am sure there are many.  Again, for me, the issue, and the urgency of a name change, could not be more clear, compelling, and overdue.

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