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The Worst Argument Against Changing The Redskins’ Name

The debate over whether or not the Redskins should change their name has flared up this offseason, and while nothing is imminent, the pro-name change movement seems to be gaining momentum. And while we have made it clear that we support changing the name, there are intelligent arguments to be made to the contrary.

On Monday, Redskins’ lineman Jordan Black provided an excellent example of what an intelligent argument does not look like:

Jordan Black is a white male telling a minority race that they’re overly sensitive about racism. And if your head hasn’t exploded yet, this stupid shit Florio wrote about RGIII and the name change is sure to do the trick.

Former Managing Editor at UPROXX; former Senior Editor at @SBNation; former ska-zine editor, fan of bad sports teams and good beer.



  1. JDobs2

    February 11, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Racism is rampant in this post… White people are not allowed to argue with whether the Redskins should change their name? Really?

  2. Mike

    February 11, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    What about that tweet made you think it was directed at American Indians as a race? He probably sent it out after reading something Wise wrote.

  3. Chris Mottram

    February 11, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    JDobs: Not at all what I said. White people are not allowed to tell minorities they’re being overly sensitive about issues of race. They can argue against the name change all they want.

    Mike: American Indians are inherently included in the “people” he is mentioning considering many of them are the ones calling for the name change.

  4. Derpologist

    February 11, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    There’s an equal amount of derp involved in wanting to change the name.

  5. Chris Mottram

    February 11, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    The Derpologist has made his diagnosis. We can all go home now.

  6. Raven Mack

    February 11, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    Don’t worry as soon as somebody explains to Danny how much official team merchandise people will have to buy to replace the old stuff, he’ll be on-board. In fact, if you just said, “Hey Mr. Snyder, you could squeeze a shitload of money out of a name change,” would be an active redirect by the end of the week.

  7. Matt

    February 11, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    The amazing thing is that Redskins has a negative connotation because of a sheer ignorance of history. I’m for a name change because its just too polluted now but its still fascinating to chart how a word becomes a negative. Just so much ignorance all around this issue.

  8. Chris Mottram

    February 11, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    Matt: Ignorance or not, the issue is pretty simple for me: there are American Indians who find it deeply offensive and racist. That’s enough for me.

  9. DCIII

    February 11, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    Approximitely 9% of the Native American population finds the term offensive. I bet if you took a poll about cotton candy about 9% would find it offensive.

  10. Matt

    February 11, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Ignorance should never be tolerated. Change it if you must for our failures to properly educate on history but that’s the lesson we should take not some false moral stand.

  11. Johnny Blades

    February 11, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    Some people believe that it is inappropriate for any sports team to use a Native-type mascot in any way, shape, or form. I think that is an extreme position to take, and could be easily rebutted with a number of well-worn arguments.

    Some people aren’t quite so rigid in their stance, but are just against the word “Redskins” itself. The problem each of those people has with that word stems from a unique, personally invented idea of what it means: they take issue with it, but never heard it used out of anger, or to hurt someone, or in any context outside of football, and have very meager – often apocryphal – information on the history/definition(s).

    This second issue is considerably more hazy than the first, and ultimately, I (biased longtime fan of his hometown football team) don’t think that an inkling about what kind of impact saying the word “Redskins” might kinda sorta have on society if you look at it a certain way is valid grounds for considering a change.

  12. Chris Mottram

    February 11, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    And Johnny Blades shows how to make an intelligent argument in favor of not changing the name.

  13. tnathan

    February 11, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    Like most Redskins fans, I’ve struggled with this. The situation is clear: the name ought to be changed – we just all wish it had been changed fifty years ago, so we wouldn’t have to contemplate the disruption of our emotional connection to the team’s name and imagery. Clearly, if the name had been changed decades ago, we’d all now wonder how it had ever been acceptable to have such a name.

    Still, I know I’ll be terribly upset when the name does change, even though it needs to be done. I can’t pretend I don’t have that strong emotional tie to the team and its name, and sports fans (like any identity group) are fundamentally resistant to challenges to tradition. We shouldn’t pretend we won’t be sad when it happens, but we should all acknowledge that it should.

    We don’t need to demonize those who want to maintain the name, but as Chris said, there are smart, thoughtful arguments and then there are people who insist they are entitled to dictate what words make marginalized people feel marginalized.

    The solution: change the name to the Washington Warriors. Maintain the colors (of course). Perhaps even maintain the logo (which isn’t inherently offensive, like the name is) – or replace the logo with a gold curly W (using a typeface like the curly R we all love).

    We will all feel sad, a lot of people will complain, and then we will watch the team and buy new hats and jerseys. Perhaps people will never stop wearing Redskins gear instead of Warriors gear, but that’s ok. Change is hard, but it’s not as hard as being made to feel like you’re an outsider every time people want to talk about the football team they like.

  14. Chris Mottram

    February 11, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    Wish I could “like” tnathan’s comment.

  15. dingoVB

    February 11, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    Isn’t there an argument to be made that changing the name of the franchise acknowledges and validates the word “REDSKINS” as a racist word? I’ve said that word out loud thousands of times in my life and I’ve never once felt or expressed any animosity or bias towards American Indians as a people (in fact, my personal views are quite the opposite: I consider American Indians, as a whole, to be a people and culture that historically demands an above-average level of respect as far as societies and cultures go).

    Now, because this word and this topic are being discussed to the extent that they are, it all of a sudden seems like saying “REDSKINS” makes me a “racist.” I’m not losing any sleep over this: I know I will never view American Indians, individually or as a group, in any way that could be deemed “racist.”

    I have to assume Jordan Black is directing his tweet at the people that are arguing for a name change that are not American Indians. I’ve heard the statistics of the number of Native Americans that are for a name change, and while I’m not comfortable enough to write any numbers here, I do think that the majority of people, per capita, championing for the franchise to change its name are not American Indians.

    I don’t want to get into the whole exhaustive argument about who should argue for the individual or collective rights of groups or minorities, but I will say that I personally believe the leaders of those arguments should be members of that group or minority (at least in present America with the state of today’s social media and the general accessibility of appropriate platforms). To me, this whole movement seems like it is being perpetuated and spearheaded by people that are not Native Americans. Simple as that.

    The Redskins are my football team and American Indians are, well, American Indians. This was the way I was living my life: these really are two completely unrelated concepts to me. Sure, Chief Z wears a headdress, but I’ve never associated him with American Indians, just like how I don’t start thinking of cheetahs anytime I see a girl walking around in cheetah-patterned clothing. My brain just does not and will never make that connection.

    You can call me ignorant, but at this point, I’m for keeping the Washington Redskins the Washington Redskins.

  16. Burgertime

    February 11, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    back to the original – the washington braves.

  17. ILM

    February 11, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    If it must change, just call them the Skins. Keep the same colors and just go with the R logo in the white circle that the team wore during the Lombardi years

  18. tnathan

    February 11, 2013 at 5:41 PM

    DingoVB, you’re right that perhaps continuing the discussion of whether the name is offensive gives life to the offensive connotation of the word. In the end, this isn’t a convincing reason to maintain the name, though – by that logic, the best way to deprive the term of its power is to simply cease using it, which would require changing the name. Unless, of course, you drop the Native American imagery entirely, change the logo to a potato, and hope everybody forgets the last 80 years.

    An even weaker argument, though, is that Native Americans supposedly aren’t offended by it, and non-Native Americans shouldn’t tell them they should be. That last part is fair, as far as it goes, but by the same reasoning, non-Native Americans have no standing to support the name, either. If Native Americans are the only ones who can say it’s offensive, then surely they’re the only ones who can say it’s acceptable, too. It doesn’t really work to say “we’ll rely on them to say if it’s offensive, but we’ll empower ourselves to say it’s not.”

    Like everyone here, I’ve spent a long time halfheartedly defending the name because I care about the team. And like everyone else, I get irritated by the smug self-satisfaction of some of those who use the name to attack the team or fans.

    I always told people that I knew the name should probably be changed, but I couldn’t honestly say I wanted it to happen. But I do know it needs to, and it will. It’s time to focus on the best transition, one that maintains the colors and symbols we care most about, while forsaking those that are aggressively offensive, even if we’re sincerely and fairly attached to them.

    Better to start working now to avoid a name change as awful and disheartening as that to the Wizards.
    If we’re not careful, we’ll end up with something like the Washington Wind.

  19. Phil Reed

    February 11, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    I am totally fine with changing the name, or choosing to keep the name the same.

    Other names that are in use today that may also offend:

    – Rebels (Fairfax High School)
    – Indians
    – Fighting Irish (depicted with a diminutive half-sized caricature)
    – Anything “Devil”
    – Fighting Illini
    – Scalping Braves (ASU)

    So, questions that have to be asked: Is “Redskins” a racist term? Are only those team names deemed to be racist subject to change, or can any rationale be given by the offended party to demand a name change? Does racism trump other ways of offending someone?

  20. Phatty McPatty

    February 12, 2013 at 10:30 AM

    To me, this debate comes down to etymology; the use and definition of the term “Redskins”, historically and presently. What bothers me with this charge of racism is the serious lack of attribution and historical context. It’s easy to write “Redskins is offensive”; it’s a lot harder to explain the reason (keeping historical context intact). Why? Because the term had been historically innocent for hundreds of years. The following link is the most complete history I could find of the term:

    In summary, for several hundred years “Redskins” referred to red war paint worn to display strength and bravery. Sometime in the last 30 years the definition had been rewritten to be derogatory.

    Obviously, the argument in the linked blog post would be much stronger with proper attribution. It’s also 7 years old and not from a credible source. But that’s expected for a medium that is devoid of standards. The ‘traditional’ media are, and should be, held to those standards. I have yet to read any attributable historical data that leads to the conclusion “Redskins” is a derogatory term (historical or otherwise).

    Don’t just say its racist, show the research that answers why dictionaries started referring to the term as derogatory nearly 40 years after the team was named. Show historical writings that contradict the benign, descriptive samples provided in the blog. If there is none, explain why the meaning of the term evolved over time from a descriptive term (red war paint) to a derogatory term. When was the shift and why? Drawing the conclusion that “Redskins” describes the natural skin tone of Native Americans is based in ignorance (much like the ‘controversy’ that surrounded the use of “niggardly”, which means miserly, but is phonetically similar to “nigger”).

    I’m asking for people to submit the data that brought them to their conclusion. If the linked historical account of the term is inaccurate, provide counter-evidence from your research. I’m assuming you found such evidence before jumping on the PC bandwagon.

  21. Jim Ed

    February 12, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    Phatty McPatty: The historical usage of a term is totally irrelevant. 50 years ago, the appropriate terms for black folk were “colored” and “negro.” Try referring to any african american by either of those phrases today and let me know how it went after you’ve collected your teeth from the floor. As a personal example, my father is mixed race, and he still refers to himself as mulatto, which is what he was registered with at school as a child, however he would be furious to hear someone else refer to him or his siblings as such, because the term is perjorative.

    The great irony of the Redskins is that of all the native american imagery using teams, the Redskins have by FAR the least amount of sterotypical caricatures associated with it. There is no white kid riding an appaloosa with a flaming spear, or a fire engine red Chief Wahoo, or a barefoot dancing Illiniwek, and certainly no Tomahawk Chop and Screamin Savage. Virtually no fans dress as indians to support the team, and Chief Zee is black, which certainly changes the dynamics of wearing the headdress. In my opinion, the side profile logo is a dignified, noble picture.

    If we were the Braves, the Indians, or even Fightin Piscataway, then I would be in the “everyone is too goddamn sensitive” camp without question. But no matter how much I’ve tried to justify it in my own mind, whatever different angle or mental gymnastics I try to employ, at the end of the day I come to the same conclusion – the name is racist.

    Let’s not forget that the dude who named the team, George Preston Marshall was a dyed in the wool, all the way to the bone racist. This team might have not integrated until he died if JFK and RFK hadn’t forced his hand and held DC Stadium hostage until he agreed to add black players. That doesn’t help the “heritage not hate” defense so commonly deployed.

    Now that being said, I understand why people get defensive when a bunch of upper middle class white kids get all self-righteous about the name and how offensive it is. The major proponents pushing for a name change right now are online sports writers, who are possibly the least diverse group in the world outside of Iceland. Almost all are white, male, in their 20’s to 30’s, and hail from the wealthier suburbs of America’s east coast cities. There is a distinct herd mentaility that runs through them(Craft Beer!, Indie Rock!, Bacon!) and browbeating people who don’t want to change the name of the Redskins is a cause celebre. A lot of what comes out from these sources regarding the Redskins name change comes off as really smug and self congratrulatory, and that’s off-putting to a lot of people.

    So yeah, in conclusion, the name should change, but people advocating it should try a different tactic than ivory tower lecturing, and it might get more support amongst the masses.

  22. False Fart

    February 12, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    I think the name Patriots is racist against white men. The patriot snapping the ball in the 80’s helmet is white and that’s just wrong. Also, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’s name is racist. Just look at that white guy on the Bucs old orange and white helmet that is negatively depicting a white pirate with a sword in his mouth and he looks like Steven Tyler. I also don’t like the name “eagles” because they are endangered and that makes me sad. The Name Giants is offensive to dwarfs or vertically challenged because they can be good at football too. The Wizards should change the name because it has wiccan undertones and religion should not be involved in a team name. Finally, I think all team names should only be things or weather effects i.e. Heat, magic, thunder, Sonics, or Storm. Get with the times people. Team names that use nouns can only be things and not persons. (this comment is written with sarcasm & for entertainment)

  23. dingoVB

    February 12, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    I think I stand somewhere between Phatty McPatty and Jim Ed. I think.

  24. Rob Smith

    March 20, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    Sticks and stones may break my bones


    Every five years or so, the PC police turn their attention to Washington, D.C., ready to confront the worst event that has ever happened to Native Americans: the naming of the city’s professional football team.

    Sports writers near and far are all on the bandwagon, calling for the team to change its name, all in the interest of finally achieving that “kumbaya” moment of an American utopia.

    Contrary to the ideals of journalism, the Kansas City Star, local newspaper for the Kansas City Chiefs and Arrowhead Stadium, goes as far as censoring itself when writing about D.C. football by referring to the team as “Washington.”

    The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian held a symposium on Feb. 7 to address this supposed symbol of racism. A panel made up self-congratulating intellectuals — including Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise — concluded that the name must go in order for the native peoples to rise up from their plight in life. Wise went as far as saying that the high rate of alcoholism and suicides among Native Americans is a direct result of this and other insensitive nicknames and mascots.


    Suzan Shown Harjo, lead panelist and attack person on this issue, is the president and executive director of The Morning Star Institute, a national, non profit Indian rights organization. Harjo claims, among others, that the name “had its origins in the practice of presenting bloody red skins and scalps as proof of Indian kill for bounty payments.”

    Sounds heinous enough. The only problem is that it is revisionist history and not true, refuted by Ives Goddard, curator and senior linguist at the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History. Goddard’s research into the matter concluded that the first known use of the term was in this 1769 message from a chief of one of the tribes of Illinois to Lt. Col. John Wilkins, inviting him to talks between the British and their tribes after Pontiac’s Rebellion: “I shall be pleased to have you come to speak to me yourself if you pity our women and our children; and, if any redskins do you harm, I shall be able to look out for you even at the peril of my life.”

    In Goddard’s essay, “I Am a Red-skin”: ?The Adoption of a Native American Expression (1769-1826)?, he went further and said “the actual origin of the word is entirely benign and reflects more positive aspects of relations between Indians and whites. It emerged at a specific time in history among a small group of men linked by joint activities that provided the context that brought it forth.” He ends the book by saying “The descent of this word into obloquy is a phenomenon of more recent times.”

    I am not advocating racism. Maybe the team should change its name, if it causes so much misery. But, this panel should turn their collective ire toward the root cause of the centuries-old suppression of the indigenous peoples of this land: The U.S. government.

    Racism toward the Native Americans has been institutionalized in our most sacred of documents: The Declaration of Independence. In addressing colonial grievances against King George III, among others, Jefferson wrote, “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured (sic) to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

    Where is the outrage? Would a trip to the National Archives cause a Native American to fall in the death spiral of low self esteem, as said by Wise?

    And speaking of symbols of repression and hate, look no further than the $20 bill and President Andrew Jackson.

    Ole’ Hickory, as he is affectionately known, was a wealthy slave owner and polarizing figure who forced the relocation of thousands of Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw from the East Coast to Oklahoma — which, incidentally, means “red people” — on what is called the “Trail of Tears.” The Indian Removal Act of 1830 caused thousands to die, amounting to what is known as “ethnic cleansing.”

    Two years ago, I took a trip to the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina — part of which is located in Jackson County, ironically. A tour guide at the museum addressed this issue by saying that “Jackson on the $20 bill is the same as if Hitler were on an Israeli shekel.”

    Again, where is the crocodile-tear outrage?

    By bringing attention to words and not the root causes, however noble, self-perpetuates racism by keeping people divided. As long as we continue to dwell on words as the cause of racism, racism will not go away. Too much energy is focused in the wrong direction.

    Better instead to focus our attention on the actual cause of the plight of Native Americans by recalling all the broken treaties, stolen land and massacres. Their penning up on reservations ensures they have virtually no chance of employment or a college education. Could this be a cause of the high rate of alcoholism and suicides on reservations, Mr. Wise? Has changing the name of other mascots alleviated the suffering that is still imposed upon these people? No, it hasn’t.

    I propose that the next symposium be held at the Bureau for Indian Affairs.

    Until the real cause of this oppression is addressed, I have one thing to say: Hail to the Redskins.

  25. northierthanthou

    December 3, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    Funny how some people who can be so sensitive about inconveniences in the spectator-sports are quick to think others too sensitive.

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