Bob Bestler | Would a ‘Redskin’ by any other name be as sweet?

02/22/2013 10:34 AM

02/22/2013 4:55 PM

The Washington Redskins have always been a favorite NFL team, probably in my top five, partly because I love Washington, D.C. It's a regular vacation spot for my family.

So I'm watching with some interest the latest volley in the war over the name of the football team's mascot, the Redskins.

On the face of it, the term is absolutely racist and offensive. Would we call native American women squaws?

It's not quite the N-word, but “redskins'' must be as hateful as any other derogatory term applied to minorities -- terms this newspaper would not print. You know them all.

The issue of changing the name has been raised before, and it was brought anew during a recent symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian, where several speakers called for a name change.

I understand the call to remove native American symbols from sports mascots began in my home state of Minnesota, which, I must admit, is politically correct to a fault.

In 1985, the state's sizeable native American population targeted high schools and persuaded dozens of them to discard any mascot that even remotely referred to native Americans.

The purge included my own hometown high school, the Owatonna Indians, which quickly transformed itself into the Owatonna Huskies.

As one who proudly played baseball and basketball under the Indians banner, I hated the change. What was derogatory about Indians? In protest I bought an Owatonna Indian medallion at my next reunion. I have it still.

While living in Milwaukee, I cheered for and attended Marquette Warrior basketball games. And again I was disappointed a few years ago to learn that the Warriors had become the Golden Eagles.

Interestingly, one name suggested as a replacement for the Washington Redskins is Washington Warriors, in honor of those who fought for their country.

I have mixed feelings about the Redskins. No one gives a fig about the meaning of the mascot when we watch them play, any more than any one thinks about bears when we watch the Chicago Bears or giants when we watch the New York Giants.

And what of other teams, the Florida State Seminoles, the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, the Atlanta Braves? Must they change, too? (Actually, I am offended by the tomahawk chop of the Braves fans, but that's another column.)

The general manager of the Washington Redskins insists there will be no change, but I think the toothpaste is out of the tube.

I expect a change eventually, not in my lifetime, maybe, but eventually. And it's not just a matter of political correctness. It's more a matter of correcting a hurt.

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