Despite New Calls from Congress, Washington Redskins Shouldn't Change Their Name

Jason S. PariniCorrespondent IIFebruary 10, 2014

Washington Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen and guard Chris Chester, right, help hold the U.S. flag before an NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins in Philadelphia, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Matt Rourke/Associated Press

For years, controversy has surrounded the Washington Redskins and the organization's name. Founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves, the team changed their name to the Boston Redskins in 1933 before moving to Washington D.C. and taking their current name of the Washington Redskins in 1937.

With that name change has come a hot topic of debate in regards to whether or not the team's nickname of the Redskins is offensive.

On Monday, that debate was once again put front and center when it was announced that several members of Congress will send a letter, a copy of which has been published by the New York Times, to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to consider a name change for the Redskins.

According to Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., and Sen. Maria Caldwell, D-Wash., "It is not appropriate for this multibillion dollar… tax-exempt organization to perpetuate and profit from the continued degradation of tribes and Indian people."  

Excuse me, Rep. Cole, buy why is there a theater in your state that is called the "Redskin Theater?" According to the movie theater's website, it was established in 1947 and still regularly shows films today.

Not only does the state of Oklahoma have a theater named after the Redskins, but the Oklahoma State University's team name is the "Cowboys." Though not a racial slur like Redskins, many feel that the NFL's rivalry of the Cowboys and Redskins is offensive because of the bloody history between cowboys and Native Americans.

Let's also not forget that the name "Oklahoma" comes from the Choctaw for "red people."

If Rep. Cole is so concerned with the existence of disrespect to Native Americans, then perhaps he should focus on fixing his own state. Cole is a member of the Chickasaw Nation.

Sen. Cantwell told the New York Times that the NFL is "getting a tax break for educational purposes, but [is] still embracing a name that people see as a slur and encouraging it."

And yet neither Cole nor Cantwell has stated any objections to any names, mascots or traditions of college football.

Sen. Cantwell has already threatened to evaluate the NFL's tax-exempt status as a result of the name.

Oh, understood. It's just another money-making scheme by the U.S. government.

According to the Redskins, the team has already received many emails from those of Native American descent stating their support of the team's name. The Redskins also have presented a 2004 survey that found that over 90 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the name.

Many teams have names attributed to Native Americans or Native American tribes besides the NFL's Redskins, including the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball and the Illinois Fighting Illini and Florida State Seminoles of the NCAA (to name a few).

The NCAA has already forced many schools to abolish their mascot, symbol or team name, including Chief Illiniwek of the University of Illinois.

A symbol of the University, the Chief last danced at an Illinois sporting event on Feb. 22, 2007. Last year, the University proposed a referendum that asked students if they favored the name "Chief Illiniwek." That referendum resulted in a 9,003-to-2,517 vote of "yes." At 4-to-1, those odds would be enough in Congress to pass a simple majority.

The hurt feelings of a small amount of individuals should not take priority over a large majority who see it otherwise. As stated previously, there are many individuals of Native American descent who do not see the name as offensive but rather as a tribute.

So why should the demands of a small group outweigh the demands of a few?

According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, it shouldn't. Goodell stated before the Super Bowl that "Eight out of 10 Americans in the general population would not like us to change the name. So we are listening. We are being respectful to people who disagree."

It's not the first time that the U.S. government has gotten involved in the Redskins organization. For years, lawmakers pushed for the Redskins to integrate, but they were the last NFL team to do so.

Based on the NFL's history, it's not likely that the demands of Rep. Cole and Sen. Cantwell will be met. Though they may garner a few Native American votes in their respective states, their efforts will likely end at Goodell's door.

Unfortunately, it appears as if the debate will forever linger.