The Washington Redskins is an old team sports brand name with no suitable place in the nation’s capital when Barak Obama takes office as the first African-American President of the United States. Of course, Indigenous America has its own museum on the Mall. Official Washington believes it treats First Nations with the respect due predecessors and compatriots. To make this a little truer, this public sports slur about Red Skins could to be remedied while the rest of Indian affairs is left on President Obama’s plate; especially, neglects inherent in the day to day follow through by the Federal government and Congress in confirming the nation’s Constitutional obligation to honor the trust relationship between America and the tribes, (a relationship taken up and confirmed by the Founders and by the Crown before them). You and I can eliminate the sports slur. Modern tribes and Native American advocacy groups, have other, more productive ways to expend their political energy and resources than to waste time on this old stereotype. Why should they expend energy fighting to eliminate an obvious joke on the jokers? Changing the name should be of no more remark than wiping away graffiti in public restrooms. Jews did not have to lobby to get the Jew’s Harp renamed a “mouth harp?” It just happened; tastes change and old prejudices stand out like sour thumbs.
The Washington Redskins are the corporate professional team in Washington D.C. (Maryland, actually) with national visibility every time they play. The second most valuable franchise in the National Football League, it was also the very last to integrate its team under threat of eviction from its home stadium. News travels slowly in this organization.
If we get this artifact of yesteryear rebranded before the Inauguration, everyone wins. With the renaming, Redskin paraphernalia will become hot selling collectibles, or, at least, will be hyped as “collectible”, until it is in the hands of collectors, like shares of stock. New fans will focus on the merits of the Washington team instead of its curious and anomalous name, in this era, so transcendent of racial self-consciousness in our thinking and world views, that red skin communicates a danger sign for cancerous melanoma and not danger of a savage attack by marauding warriors. So it is time to move on.
What should we next call the Washington football team? I tried post-Thanksgiving word associations to link the teams’ place to the political capital of America, and its consequential place in the world of American political symbols, as well as all the threatening associations from names usually chosen for American football teams. Team names aren’t all threatening. But, Dolphins (and Cardinals) aside, there is usually some testosterone bubbling just under the surface, a word message that this team has dangerous potential, and should not be screwed with because its players are, well, Steelers, or Packers, or Jaguars. Each name conveys a team and a player, known to threaten a tough fight, if necessary, and always, always ready to fight back. There is a proletariat feel to the names except in the case of New York where Giants rule and usually win. As we all know. The trick is to find and pick the name that both our nation and locals can identify as appropriate to Washington, D.C. because it is emblematic of latent and overt power and, also, one which hints at how Washington behaves. Here’s my starter list of substitutes for the “Redskins.” Pick one or add another.
The Washington Elites, Powers, Power-brokers, Deciders, Deceivers, Army, Guns, Leathernecks, Riflemen, Snipers, Taxers, Taxmen, Occupiers, Bombers, Partisans, Independents, Crats (as in Bureau), Tribes, Tribesmen,Warriers, Sovereigns, Exploiters, Defenders, Tough Guys, Pols, Terminators, Bagmen, Millionaires, Billionaires, Missile men, Spoilers, Senators ( a rebirth ), Rogues, Brokers (as in legs and arms), Golem, Godfathers, Muscle, Tailgaters, Rockers, Gladiators, Killers, Protectors, Psychos, Highjackers, Defectors, Preemptors, Prevaricators (sorry), Flags (Probably, not), Bagmen, Swagmen, Dominators, Guards, Big shots, Politicos, Candidates, Bloggers, Lasers, Grazers, Hipsters, Raptors, Tipsters, Punks, Dreamers, Police, Strikers, Censors, Freedmen, Feds, Bankers, Lenders, Foreclosures, Evictors, Cannibals, Contaminators, Liberators, Invaders, Oppressors, Suppressors, Saviors, Creditors, Liquidators, Thinkers, Skinners, Potato Skins, Hit men, Conspirators, Onion Skins, (Just) Skins, All Skins, Dealers (as in Wheeler-), Spacemen, Big Butts ( suggested by a female fan), Demonstrators, Resisters, Pranksters, Operators, Metro-liners, Plaintiffs, Spies, Judges, High Courts (this is Washington), Suites, Streets, Testicles, Tentacles, Rats, Predators, Mobsters, Muggers, Moneymen, Wild men, Heretics, Gods, Thrashers, Crashers, Mashers, Mercenaries, Gangsters, Controllers, Capitalists, Machineguns, Workers or Obamamen.
To complete this project before Inauguration Day, it needs a blogger to set up a Web site, to collect new names for the Redskins and ship them over to Redskin corporate management with the final recommendations for new names by participants, included., President -elect Barack Obama has too much on his plate. Our task is a small, but symbolic, step to move things along, so next year‘s Thanksgiving sports ritual will not mock members of tribes in America. Many of our foreign policy woes relate to problems with tribes, not nation states. A good first step is often one taken at home. Our little project will be given a title familiar to all who know American Indian policy’s primary historical goal when dealing with tribes. We’ll call it, “Operation Redskin Removal.”
STEVE CONN lived in Alaska from 1972 until 2007. He is a retired professor, University of Alaska. His e mail is email@example.com