Usually when I talk about racism, I talk about the past policy to deny black Mormons the priesthood and temple ordinances. However, there are other types of racism, and Native American racism is in the news. Many people consider that the name NFL’s Washington Redskins is a racial slur. President Obama weighed in on the issue and said “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team, even if they’ve had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.” Hall of Fame players (who played for Washington) Darrell Green and Art Monk think the name should be changed. A friend of mine from the DC area has wanted to get the name changed for years, feeling it is racially insensitive at best. Yet owner Daniel Snyder grew up as a fan of the team. Back in May, he told USA Today “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps.”
If you think Redskins is not a slur (like Daniel Snyder does) how would we feel about the Washington Whiteskins, or Washington Blackskins, or Washington N-word, or Washington Crackers, or Washington Honkies? I’m not sure why Washington gets so much press, while the Atlanta Braves or Cleveland Indians don’t. Is Cowboy a slur against white people? Before last night’s game between the Redskins and Cowboys, NBC’s Bob Costas explained why he thinks both the Redskins and Cleveland Indians nicknames are worse than the others.
President Obama has questioned whether Native Americans should be used by any team when he said “But I think — all these mascots and team names related to Native Americans, Native Americans feel pretty strongly about it. And I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things.” Many teams have wrestled with using Indian names, including here in Utah. The University of Utah, (the flagship institution here–note that BYU is a private school, not a state school) is known as the “Runnin’ Utes.” The NCAA put pressure on teams to change their mascots away from Native American names back in 2005, ruling that teams must get approval from the local tribe or they would not be able to host post-season games. The Ute Tribe has given it’s blessing to the University of Utah, so the U is still in the good graces of the NCAA. However, even though Florida State University has the same permission from the Seminole Tribe, the NCAA takes exception to it’s pre-game ritual where a student dressed as Chief Osceola rides onto the field on a spotted horse and plants a flaming spear in the turf, saying that this is “hostile or abusive.” Other Seminole Tribes outside of Florida have not granted permission for FSU to use the Seminole nickname.
Some schools have changed their names. The Marquette (Wisconsin) Warriors are now the Golden Eagles. The St. Johns (NY) Redmen are now the Red Storm. Here in Utah, The Dixie College Rebels changed their name to the Red Storm (and even removed a Confederate statue on campus.) Washington, DC isn’t immune from name changes. The NBA team Bullets changed their name to the Wizards because of the outcry that the city was prone to gun violence and could use a better name than bullets.
What about whites? Are you offended to be called a Yankee or a Cowboy?
Take the poll and tell us if you think these teams should change their nicknames because they are racially offensive. We can also talk about “bad” nicknames too. Would you want to be a Nebraska Cornhusker? How about a Jordan High School (Utah) Beetdigger, or a Davis High School (Utah) Dart? An Ohio State Buckeye is a tree officially called Aesculus glabra. Does this inspire fear? Are trees scary? (Perhaps if they fall on you?) The NBA’s New Orleans Hornets changed to the Pelicans because they wanted something more connected to the city. Is that better?