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Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
Commentary

A name that’s impossible to defend


Published:

The granddaughter of the man who gave Washington’s football team its name 81 years ago says it is time for a change.

A federal judge hearing a case involving the team bans use of the Redskins name in court documents.

And a Native American sportswriter explains the ugly history behind the word “redskin” and why its use continues to cause so much hurt.

We are under no illusion that any of these recent developments will cause team owner Daniel Snyder to give ground on his infamous vow to “never” change his team’s name. So dug in is Snyder that not even an adverse ruling from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seems to have fazed him. But it is clear that momentum to rid the team of its offensive name is only growing, and a name change is a matter of when and how, not if.

The latest voice in the chorus for change comes from a somewhat unexpected source. Jordan Wright, a descendant of original team owner George Preston Marshall, knows the importance of the team’s history, and so it was generally assumed she would support upholding the tradition of the name, the bulwark of Snyder’s defense. But as she told The Post’s Theresa Vargas, “It’s about respect. If even one person tells you that name, that word you used, offends them, then that’s enough. That should be enough.”

Equally powerful was the sentiment expressed by Baxter Holmes, who covers the Boston Celtics for the Boston Globe, in a piece for Esquire.com. He detailed how a term rooted in the scalped heads of Native Americans has affected him as a Native American.

“Non-natives may never quite understand how deep the term ‘redskins’ cuts into ancient wounds that have never quite healed,” he wrote.

Lest anyone think that it’s just a word at issue, a new report by the Center for American Progress detailed the real-life impacts of native mascots on Native American youths. These include hostile learning environments, low self-esteem and record suicide rates. “It says that it is OK to marginalize me,” said one young Native American.

Every new objection to the use of the word makes it harder for Snyder to kid himself that he’s helping his team or its fans by holding onto a name that, at bottom, is a racial slur with no place in civilized society.

The team is set to begin a new season with a new head coach and, it is hoped, new possibilities for success on the field.

It’s about time for a name that everyone can embrace.

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