Redskins: Should the name be changed?


Phillip Butler shows his Redskins tattoo. Photo from Natalie Rebetsky

by Kobi Azoulay, Reporter


Equal to Ravens purple or Steelers gold and black, on most days students sport Redskins jerseys, hats, and other Redskins-related clothing. Despite the team’s dedicated fan base, there are many people who believe the Redskins name is offensive to Native Americans. This issue has had recent press, ranging from Native American Tribe statements all the way to the White House.

“How can you spout honor on one hand……while belittling with the other,” said Natalie Standingontherock, a Tribal Chairwoman for the local Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians. “This runs deeper than any non-Indian could ever understand.”

The Piscataway Indians are not the only Native American tribe offended by the Redskins name. The Oneida Indian Nation has been actively working with the NFL in an attempt to change the team’s name.

“Let’s be clear. The name, the ‘R’ word is defined in the dictionary as an offensive term. It’s a racial slur,” said Ray Halbritter, a representative from the Oneida Indian Nation in a news article on CNN on October 8th.

The Oneida Indian Nation on October 16th released a poll which showed that 55% of the adults in the Washington D.C. area would support the team just the same whatever their name was, while 18% actually said that changing the team’s name would increase their support.

The NFL has planned a meeting on November 22nd with the Oneida Nation to learn more about Native Americans’ concerns.  Although he hasn’t taken a side in the debate, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently said in an interview with 106.7 The Fan, “If we are offending one person, we need to be listening and making sure that we’re doing the right things to try to address that.”

Even President Obama has an opinion on the debate. In an Associated Press interview, Obama stated that if he was the Redskins owner and he knew that the name was “offending a sizable group of people,” then he would “think about changing it.”

Although there are many people who want to see the name changed, an Associated Press poll conducted in May shows that the Redskins name is still widely popular.  According to the survey, nearly 80% of Americans support the current name, while only 11% believe the name should be changed.

The Croatan Indians, a Native American group from North Carolina, has a drastically different view on the controversy than the Piscataway and Oneida Indians.

“Having spent years in D.C. and being a Croatan Indian, it sickens me to see President Obama weighing in on a team who gave me hope as a Native American in my youth,” said Randy Davis, a member of the Croatan Indians in an article on the American Thinker website, published on October 10th.

The Redskins Public Relations office often points to a poll taken by the Annenberg Institute in 2004 to show that name does not offend Native Americans. It found that 90% of Native Americans felt more like the Croatan Indians and were not bothered by the Redskins name at all. Although the results seem to be very conclusive, this poll may be outdated now.

The issue is not new. Generations of fans have come and gone without a name change.  Momentum for a change seems to be at an all-time high.  Sports analyst Peter King recently announced that his new NFL only sports website would not use the Redskins name in any of their articles.

King isn’t alone, though. The Washington City Paper has also announced that they will no longer be addressing the Washington Redskins as their official name, instead deciding to refer to them as the Washington “Pigskins.”

Recently during the halftime show of the Redskins vs. Cowboys game on Sunday Night Football, Reporter Bob Costas brought up the issue to a national broadcast audience.

“It’s an insult, a slur no matter how benign the present-day intent. It’s fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended, but if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense might legitimately be taken?” said Costas.

Karl Cissel, a sophomore, says that he’s been a Redskins fan his entire life and doesn’t want to see the team change its name.

“No I do not because I believe when you hear the name ‘Redskins’ you think of the football team, not a racial slur about Native Americans.”

Senior Phillip Butler, another fan, wears a Redskins tattoo on his arm.

“They should have brought this up years ago.”

Senior Davey Allison says, “If they change the name for the Redskins, why not change it for the Atlanta Braves or the Cleveland Indians?”

With all of the different opinions surrounding this controversial debate, it’ll be an interesting story to follow as momentum for change mounts.