Before billion-dollar TV deals and multimillion dollar athletes, back when the National Football League was still in its infancy, the Redskins were born.
Founded in Boston, the Redskins relocated to Washington, D.C., in 1937 and since then, their red and white colors have become synonymous with the city in which they play.
Until recently, the Redskin moniker and logo raised few eyebrows. But under the pressure of today’s politically correct culture, the Redskin name has come under attack.
Congressmen, Native Americans and casual fans have urged owner Daniel Snyder to change the name; yet, the sometimes controversial owner has refused to rid the city of the Redskin name.
Responding to critics, Snyder wrote that the team’s name “was, and continues to be a badge of honor.”
As a member of the Navajo Nation in blood and identity, I agree with Snyder and, for the following reasons, believe that changing the name would be inappropriate.
IT WASN’T INTENDED
TO BE A SLUR
While many individuals unfamiliar with the history of the term “Redskin” consider it to be a slur, history suggests that such an insensitive connotation was never intended.
The name “Redskin” was coined as a means of honoring the team’s then-head coach, Lone Star Dietz.
In addition to honoring Dietz, team owner George Preston Marshall hoped to increase profits by piggybacking on the names of two MLB teams, the Braves and the Indians, who were selling large amounts of merchandise.
I understand that “Redskin” could be used as a slur, but red-skinned is what we are. Considering the fact that the name was not meant as a slur, I see no reason why it should be considered a slur now.
IT’S PART OF NATIVE
Instead of seeing the name as disparaging, I see it as part of Native American identity.
Identity is all that we have nowadays, and taking it away by changing the name of a great team is not right. The names of our ancestors should be recognized. “Redskins” should be a badge of honor, just like Snyder said.
Take, for instance, the name “Navajo.” I, being Navajo, am not offended by the name. Yes, it was given to us by Mexicans who classified us as thieves. At the same time, however, we’ve made the name meaningful.
We helped win World War II. We transformed “Navajo” into a meaningful name. Let us acknowledge that we’re an inspiration to all ethnicities.
It is said that a third of Native Americans do not understand where “Redskin” came from. Nonetheless, many people want a symbol of our ancestors to cease to exist.
I believe that the Redskins have become a symbol of survival and determination.
Let us not be ruled by the small-minded. Let us overcome those who ignorantly use the name “Redskin” as a slur. The world and its people are moving beyond the era of degredation and stereotypes. Let us embrace this new era and let the Washington Redskins keep their identity.
Note: All arguments and ideas contained in this column were developed by Tyler Begay. Ian MacLaren assisted Begay in writing this column.