The Demise of the Washington Redskins

Hail to the Redskins was one of the first songs I learned. When I fell down and cut myself, I bled burgundy and gold. When my grandfather was with the Washington Post, he would attend games at RFK stadium, and the Post made everyone T-Shirts with the headline of super bowl victory on the front page of the Post February 1, 1988, as “Williams delivers a Super Bowl Triumph”. I have had that shirt in my closet since then.

Those were the golden years. The “Hogs” front line, the “Fun Bunch” of Monk, Brown, Garrett, then Sanders and others. They were the start of the high five leap and excessive celebrations in the end zone before it was considered garish. The Redksins won three super bowls, 1983, 1988, and 1992, all under the coaching of Joe Gibbs. Since then the fans have been pining for some sort of hope, now the famous name will be retired, the history seen as one of contempt versus excellence.

In history, there have been a couple of polls done , the Annenburg, and most recently the Post in 2019, that stated 9 out of 10 Native Americans are not offended by the team name. Others think that any symbol of potential racism or derogatory terms, should go by the wayside. Does that include the Indians in Cleveland, where Chief Wahoo is, or the Kansas City chiefs at Arrowhead? Shakespeare once coined the phrase, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Does the name matter, as long as the team goes on?

The name Redskins was first coined in the late 1800’s and literally described a person by the skin tone. All the dictionaries cite that a Redskin is a Native American, but it is considered derogatory. The connotation that the football team uses is a native warrior, in support of our native people of America. If you recall, our basketball team name in Washington was previously called the Bullets, which brought up violent overtones , so name changing is not new to Washington sports.

What we have here is a tradition that should surpass a name. The Washington team still strives for wins, still supports the community, still is playing and hoping for that next super bowl winning team. But it is not above pressure, and the monetary losses of not changing the name is more than the owner , Daniel Snyder could bear. It paints them into a corner that they cannot get out of, and that is the team must stay viable.

Since the team has turned over to Daniel Snyder, it has certainly faltered. Many expressed consternation concerning the ballooning prices, not just for tickets, but parking and sundries. The reputation has been less interest in team development , more interest in making money, so it cannot be said he isn’t following his pattern. He will change the name he so opposed to do, all for the sake of funds and sponsorship, not because it may be the right thing to do. Granted, it will cost money, changing a brand and a logo is a big investment, but perhaps it is a fresh start for a troubling team, with glory in the rear view mirror. Perhaps it is a attempt to shrug off years of a supposed Native American “Curse”, and a way to capitulate the team back into the winning spotlight once again.

Only time will tell . Until then I will still bleed burgundy and gold, but call it something different, and I will still keep my jerseys and my Superbowl t-shirt. I hope one day, whatever they are called, they will be victorious once again, as I sing… well I will wait to hear the new song to victory.

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