Slate: We can no longer in good conscience use the term "Redskins" to describe Washington's football team

Do you care? No. Do I care? No. Does the sports world care, given Slate’s non-reputation for football coverage? No. (Which Slate acknowledges, by the way.) Do I need something to blog during this excruciatingly slow news week, though? Yes, I do.

Fair warning: If the news doesn’t pick up today, there might be multiple atheism posts coming. Multiple.

[T]ime passes, the world changes, and all of a sudden a well-intentioned symbol is an embarrassment. Here’s a quick thought experiment: Would any team, naming itself today, choose “Redskins” or adopt the team’s Indian-head logo? Of course it wouldn’t…

So while the name Redskins is only a bit offensive, it’s extremely tacky and dated—like an old aunt who still talks about “colored people” or limps her wrist to suggest someone’s gay…

Changing how you talk changes how you think. The adoption of the term “African-American”—replacing “Negro” and “colored”—in the aftermath of the civil rights movement brought a welcome symmetry with Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans, groups defined by geographic origin rather than by race or color. Replacing “same-sex marriage” with “marriage equality” helped make gay marriage a universal cause rather than a special pleading. If Slate can do a small part to change the way people talk about the team, that will be enough.

Close readers of Slate know that we are owned by the Washington Post Co., which just sold the Washington Post newspaper, the market-maker in Redskins coverage. Slate and the Washington Post newspaper have always been editorially independent, and what we’ve decided has no bearing on the newspaper, which still refers to the Redskins. Speaking as a Post subscriber, I wish they would change. The Post is—along with ESPN and the other NFL broadcasters—one of the only institutions that could bring genuine pressure on Snyder to drop the name. But it’s only fair to acknowledge that it’s a much more difficult decision for the newspaper than it is for us, given that covering Dan Snyder’s team is essential to the Post’s editorial mission.

Good point at “Kissing Suzy Kolber”, which notes that some newspapers made this move more than 20 years ago: Go figure that Slate didn’t take the plunge on expunging “Redskins” until two days after the Post was sold to Jeff Bezos, severing the common ownership of the publications. It’s easy to be brave when your big brother no longer has to worry about reduced access to the team because of it, huh?

But look. While Slate’s grandstanding means nothing in itself, the cumulative effect of this stuff will, over time, erode the ‘Skins stubbornness in sticking by their name. The gay-marriage analogy in the excerpt isn’t totally off-base; this is all about moving the Overton window. Initially, virtually no one objects to “Redskins.” Then a few people object and get laughed at. Then the idea gets some traction politically and the laughter is replaced by defensive resoluteness. The back-and-forth pushes the issue further into the public eye and people who wouldn’t care one way or another start taking sides. Eventually prominent people in politics and entertainment start criticizing the current policy. Over time, the emphasis in media coverage shifts from “why are people making a big deal about this?” to “why is X standing in the way of progress?” At that point it’ll be such an irritating distraction that the Redskins will be open to a name-change purely in the interest of curing their headache. Your best line of defense here if you’re a traditionalist is that Dan Snyder, being Dan Snyder, might relish the chance to annoy his critics by refusing to change the name even after public opinion turns against it. Or maybe he’ll “compromise” by changing the logo from a Native American in headdress to a Native American in headdress extending a middle finger. New team nickname: The Washington Birds. I’d root for ’em. I’m a Jets fan; there’s nowhere to go but up.

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