After reading recent comments made by National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the racist team nickname of the Washington Redskins, I just had to write him to express my opinion regarding this sensitive issue. Mr. Goodell, citing both the origins and popularity of the name, opined that the nickname Redskins represents a “unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”
During the past fifteen years, I have written numerous letters regarding this issue, from football and baseball team owners to the NAACP, including Washington owner Daniel Snyder ten years ago when he purchased the team. Tradition is one thing, however, it is long past time for the nation’s professional sporting teams to end this bigotry, following the lead of our colleges and universities. Below is a copy of my letter to the commissioner.
June 18, 2013
Mr. Roger Goodell
The National Football League
345 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10054
Dear Commissioner Goodell,
I was greatly disappointed to recently read that you are defending the use of a racial slur for a team nickname, that being the Washington Redskins. Over the years, I have written often regarding this sensitive issue, and will post a copy of this letter onto my blog as well. What would public opinion be if a team were named the Blackskins? The outcry would be immeasurable, and justifiably so. Is it any less offensive for a team to be nicknamed the Redskins? I do not believe so.
I wrote team owner Daniel Snyder in October of 2003 when U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly overturned a ruling rescinding the Washington Redskins trademark, finding there was not enough evidence to conclude that the name is reproachful to the indigenous people of this country. As a white man, I am very much offended by the use of names and symbols of Native Americans in sports. I am terribly offended by the logo of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, Chief Wahoo, which portrays Native Americans in much the same manner as Black Sambo did African-Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. I find nothing offensive about the use of the word Indians as a nickname, however, not being Native American, I do not know if they find its use odious.
It was reported that you cite the origins of the name and polling for your stand. Just because Washington has used this insulting name for eighty years does not justify its use. Regarding your polling, whom actually did you poll, white male football fans? Did you poll Native Americans for their opinion? To really determine how offensive the term Redskins is, I suggest you limiting your polling to Native Americans. I always find it somewhat comical whenever I hear someone say they do not find a particular racial slur offensive, however it is not them who are being offended. A great many white Southerners find nothing offensive with the Dixie flag, however to the vast majority of African-Americans, this flag is a symbol of bigotry and slavery.
Colleges and universities began removing racial slurs from their team nicknames several decades ago. It is long past time for the National Football League and Major League Baseball to do the same. I urge you to do the right thing and correct this injustice.
Steven H. Spring
Mr. Daniel Snyder