Washington Redskins: Yes, It Is Time for the Team to Change Its Racist Nickname

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 10, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 21:  A general view of the Washington Redskins cheer squad as the fly flags during the game of the Philadelphia Eagles on December 21, 2008 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Here we go again.

For the first time in quite a few years, the Washington Redskins are relevant nationally. They're coming off their first division title since 1999 and their franchise player, Robert Griffin III, is one of the league's brightest young stars. 

But right when the folks in the mainstream begin to be reminded that you exist, your warts become enhanced. Now, the Redskins are, once again, facing public criticism quite simply for being the Redskins.

Washington, D.C. mayor Vincent Gray says that if the 'Skins want to attempt to move from Landover, Md., into D.C., their racist nickname might have to be changed. 

"I think that if they get serious with the team coming back to Washington, there's no doubt there's going to have to be a discussion about that," Gray said at a press conference Wednesday, per the Los Angeles Times.

"I think it has become a lightning rod, and I would love to be able to sit down with the team and see if a change should be made. There's a precedent for this, and I think there needs to be a dispassionate discussion about this, and do the right thing."

He's right, there's a precedent right there in the D.C. area. For example, Washington's NBA franchise might not have the fan base or the history that the Redskins do, but it still changed its nickname to the Wizards after three-and-a-half decades as the Bullets. They went to three championships as the Bullets, winning it all in 1978.

Like it or not, this country becomes just a little more politically correct with each passing year, so anyone who thought that this issue was dead when the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge (h/t Washington Post) regarding the subject from a group of Native Americans in 2009 was dead wrong. 

The reality is that we'll discuss this until the end of football and/or the world, or until a name change takes place. It'll go away for years and then it'll pop back up, but I'm guessing—as is Rush Limbaugh—that the name change will eventually take place.

And while that wouldn't feel right, it shouldn't feel any more right supporting a team that essentially advocates the use of a racial epithet. 

We hate change, I know. But we hate racism more, don't we? This nickname was slapped onto this team in a very different era of American history. Things have changed over the last 80 years, and the residue from less racially sensitive eras of the past is slowly being wiped away. Washington's football team can be part of that process. All that is required is a local vote for a new nickname and a minor inconvenience to fans who fear change. 

"The term 'redskins' is the most vile and offensive term used to describe Native Americans," Suzan Harjo, who led the lawsuit that failed in '09, told the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in 2011 (per the Washington Post). "It is most disturbing to the overwhelming majority of Native Americans throughout the country that the professional football team in the nation's capital uses a team name that demeans us."

Based on that, as well as the multitude of lawsuits launched in this regard from dozens of Native organizations, it's safe to conclude that thousands of Americans are personally offended by the name. So changing it won't hurt a soul, but rather, it will appease many of those who feel wronged by it.

You can either be part of a positive change or you can remain stuck in the past, personally offending thousands so that you can continue to chant "Hail to the Redskins." From a column written by Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post earlier this week:

"Does anyone really believe that the name 'Redskins' will survive the 21st century? Other than the people who probably thought white actors in blackface would survive the 20th? The genocide of Native peoples, like America's other original sin, slavery, cannot be forever masked with caricatures of the dead."

With all of that in mind, I find it hard to believe anyone can be too comfortable on the other side of this debate, and perhaps it really is time to get rid of this blatantly racist nickname.