Yesterday I posted this picture on Facebook along with the caption: "Getting ready for tonight's game between the Redskins and the Giants. Sorry, I meant to say the New York football club. Don't want to offend any freakishly tall people."
I wore that t-shirt all day Thursday -- to work, around town, in the grocery store, gas station, etc. I got many comments about it, all of them positive, which led to several conversations about the legitimacy of the recent widespread concern over the perceived offensiveness of the Redskins name.
But I did get one negative response on Facebook.
TJ: Where can I get a shirt like that?
JR: Just curious? Would you support the team or wear a shirt that said "Washington Niggers" or "Washington Kikes?" Your stance seems clear, but just wondering why?
TJ: Jason, your question is off base. I'm wondering why you asked it. Most Indians are not offended by Redskins, but all blacks are offended by Nigger (except when speaking to each other.)
JR: My question is not off base. So if something is morally wrong, but a majority (and I would like to see where your numbers stating that Native Americans are not offended come from) don't oppose a change that means we shouldn't act? How would we have enabled change with the Jim Crow laws of the deep south? I have no investment in the change other than I feel the name is morally not just.
JR: To be clear, people are free to wear what they like and support who they want. I was just curious why.
This blog post is an effort to answer all of JR's questions.
Question 1: Would you support the team or wear a shirt that said "Washington Niggers" or "Washington Kikes?"
Answer: No, because sports nicknames are derived from something that inspires pride and honor and respect, not words that are used as racial slurs. I have never heard the two examples you give used in a way that inspires pride and honor and respect.
Question 2: Your stance seems clear, but just wondering why?
Answer: My stance is meant to be clear. Hence the large bright letters on my t-shirt. If this were a really important issue I would do something more than just wear a t-shirt. This is not an issue like pro-life or religious freedom. I would not die to preserve the Redskins name. But it is an issue that I have a definite stance on and therefore I feel an obligation to support it.
Question 3: So if something is morally wrong, but a majority (and I would like to see where your numbers stating that Native Americans are not offended come from) don't oppose a change that means we shouldn't act?
Answer: Yes, if something is morally wrong we should act. Fortunately, naming a football team after something that inspires pride, honor, and respect is not morally wrong. The numbers back me up. Every poll I've seen shows that the vast majority of Americans and Native Americans don't think the Redskins should change their name. Look it up. Your Google is as good as mine. The Redskins have sent multiple people out to tribes across the country to spend time talking to Native Americans to listen to them and see what they think about this issue. Chris Cooley, for example, interviewed over 100 Native Americans from different tribes and not one person told him the Redskins should change their name. In fact, most of them were proud of the name. There are many predominantly Indian high schools across the country who use the nickname Redskins or something similar.
I'm a Vikings fan. I'm also of Danish ancestry. My grandfather and the original Vikings both came from the same country. Maybe this helps me understand just a little bit why the vast majority of Native Americans are proud of the name Redskins. It's this vast majority of Native Americans that I want to support, not some small group of activists and white media loudmouths who are making noise because they need a cause to make themselves feel good about themselves.
Question 4: How would we have enabled change with the Jim Crow laws of the deep south? I have no investment in the change other than I feel the name is morally not just.
Answer: Okay, now you're comparing the name of a football team that a small minority of people think is offensive to racial segregation laws. I'm going to have a hard time giving a serious response to this question. I've never been to a game at the Redskins stadium, but if I ever go I will be outraged if I see that they have separate bathrooms and drinking fountains for Native Americans and non-Native Americans. In fact, I will change my stance immediately.
Question 5: To be clear, people are free to wear what they like and support who they want. I was just curious why.
Answer: Now you know why. So please let the Redskins wear what they like which includes a proud Native American mascot on their helmet.