Good Riddance To The Washington NFL Team's Offensive Name

[ Posted Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 – 15:55 UTC ]

Today I am going to spike a football in the end zone. That's as appropriate as a sports metaphor gets, really, because I am celebrating the fact that the Washington Ethnic Slurs football team has finally decided to retire their official team name. They seem to be in some sort of discussions (variously reported as being with Native American groups, the military, or possibly someone who already owns the trademark and/or copyright) about what the new team name will be, but as of Monday they will never be called the "Washington Redskins" ever again. And that is indeed a reason for an end-zone celebration.

Way back in 2007 -- in the first column I ever wrote about sports -- I denounced the Washington Ethnic Slurs and all the other sports teams making piles of money off of exploiting imagery of Native Americans. The Washington team name was the worst offender in terms of language, but the "Chief Wahoo" caricature of the Cleveland Indians won out as the worst of the worst in all of professional sports (for obvious reasons).

In this column, I forwarded a proposal made by my wife to form a corporation called "Native Americans, Inc." which would charge sliding-scale fees to all sports teams that used Native American tribal names, references, or imagery to identify their teams. The fees charged would be determined by this corporation, and the more offensive a name or a logo was, the more money the team would have to pay to license it. I thought it was a brilliant idea to rectify a bad situation without causing too much change too fast. But I ended the article rather pessimistically:

The more I think about it, the more sense this idea makes. Sure, it probably will never happen, but that doesn't make it any less a good idea.

I was right -- the idea never got off the ground. But in the intervening years, attitudes have indeed begun a major shift. This was accelerated by the recent protests in the streets about racial injustice, but it didn't begin with them. Two years ago, I wrote another sports column which celebrated the Cleveland baseball team finally (kind of, sort of) retiring their incredibly offensive mascot and logo. I ended this column with another rather pessimistic statement:

And, of course, even with Chief Wahoo exiting the stage, there still remains one major glaring example of indefensible racism towards Native Americans in professional sports. Because until the Washington D.C. football team decides to change their own name, cashing in on blatantly racist attitudes towards Native Americans will still somehow be seen as acceptable to major league sports. Sports teams making money off of a group of people who have experienced nothing short of genocide in America will never be seen as completely unacceptable until the National Football League decides that "Redskins" needs to go the way of Chief Wahoo. But, sadly, I'm not exactly holding my breath in anticipation of this ever happening.

At the time, the owner of the Washington Ethnic Slurs was adamant about keeping the name, and vowed that it would "NEVER" change (he even told the sports reporter he was talking to: "you can use all caps"). So I reasonably thought we'd have to wait until he died and the team got a new owner before anything would change.

But that was before corporate America decided that being "woke" was actually a good thing for the bottom line.

The change in attitude in the front office of the Washington Ethnic Slurs was forced upon them, plain and simple. The big bucks won the day. Reportedly, this began with an investment firm who lobbied several corporations to use their leverage with the Washington team to force a change. This effort grew enormously on Wall Street over the past few months, and they finally achieved success. The big money people convinced Pepsi, FedEx, and Nike to sit the team's owner down and explain the new facts of life to him. You might wonder why these corporations in particular carried such weight, but it became obvious when Nike suddenly pulled all Washington merchandise from their site (they are the sole manufacturer of all official NFL merchandise, so this was a very big deal) while at the same time FedEx announced that it would not only refuse to renew their naming-rights contract for the stadium Washington plays in, but also that it would remove any Washington Ethnic Slurs logos and displays from the stadium as well. The Washington team was also reportedly in negotiations to build a new stadium in D.C. (where their old R.F.K. Stadium is located) -- but the city's mayor had told the team they would never be allowed to build a new stadium as long as they kept their current name.

That's a lot of very heavyweight pressure, and it worked with amazing speed. Mere days after the Nike and FedEx announcements, the team owner relented and said he would take a few weeks to study the issue. This was a face-saving measure for him which allowed him the time to realign his own thinking on the issue. Would he continue to insist on the offensive name even if it meant losing untold millions in merchandise sales? Would he jeopardize getting a new stadium built for his team? His previous insistence on continuing to be offensive suddenly meant an enormous amount of lost revenue for the organization.

This Monday, he threw in the towel. Or (to use a football metaphor instead) it was fourth-and-long, so he wisely decided to punt. The team is still working out the details of their new name and negotiating with all interested parties about the appropriateness and legality of whatever name they've chosen. But whatever they decide to call themselves, their new name will no longer be so offensive that national sports reporters refuse to use it on the air or in the sports pages (most simply now use: "the Washington NFL team," although I've always favored: "the Washington Ethnic Slurs" myself).

A new day is dawning. I have to admit I never thought we'd ever get here (even if it did take 13 years from when I first wrote about it). There are still other professional sports teams that will also have to rethink their Native American exploitation, but seeing the Cleveland logo and the Washington football team name retired are both giant leaps in the right direction, and deserve celebration. So you'll excuse me while I just spike this particular football in the end zone.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


49 Comments on “Good Riddance To The Washington NFL Team's Offensive Name”

  1. [1] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    as of Monday they will never be called the "Washington R******s" ever again.

    Wow, Mondays are starting to feel like Festivus! I can hardly wait until next Monday. The Anti-Maskers are going to gift us with a motherlode of insane America-shaming Wal*Mart videos all of which will be pre-meditated and performative rather than spontaneous. That’s the best part- reality TV-grade bad acting. They want their 15 minutes of fame in a desperate attempt to get Dear Leader's attention before they drink the grape Flavor Aid.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I wonder if the ownership will consult with Native Americans for a replacement name that honours the culture of the first inhabitants of Turtle Island, who were great lovers of sports ...

  3. [3] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Okay. That's one attaboy for big money flexing it's muscle for a good purpose.

    Still quite a few attaboys short.

  4. [4] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    I sure hope attaboy doesn't have some racist origin. :D

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  6. [6] 
    andygaus wrote:

    I read that the Navajo Nation has proposed a Native American-based name that they would be very happy with: "The Code Talkers."

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The Washington Code Talkers ...

    I love it!

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The WTC ...

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ... it works!

    One must always be careful of the acronyms ... :)

  10. [10] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    When I lived on the Crow Reservation in Montana, it was surprising to me when I was informed by the locals that they loved the Atlanta Braves... and even Chief Knock-a-homa. Yes, they saw him as a cartoonish figure, but the Crow didn’t feel like the character was done out of hatred. It was good natured kidding that highlighted their often “odd” last names. (Example: I lived with the PrettyOnTop family when I first arrived on the Rez).

    As one elder told me, they were just happy to see any representation of Native Americans on TV...even if it wasn’t the best version of them : “Take that away, and we risk disappearing from the public’s eye completely.”

    And while “Redskins” is more offensive of a term than “Braves” is, I am sure that some Native Americans might still have mixed feelings over the name change.

  11. [11] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    That would be incredible if the team did that as a show of contrition!

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    First Nations are as diverse as we are, within one nation and between nations and have the same mixed feelings about what is offensive and what is not.

    I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some Native Americans like the Redskins name as much as Chris hates it ...

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    What brought you to live on a Rez?

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Just curious ...

  15. [15] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Big Orange has ditched Brad the T-shirt salesguy. Too much winning. He's sick of all the winning.

  16. [16] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    from what i read, they're intentionally staying away from native american imagery. they might go with something ambiguous like 'warriors' but if so there will be no team-licensed feathers or tomahawks to go with it. of course, that wouldn't stop contrarian and/or racist fans from making some of their own...

  17. [17] 
    dsws wrote:

    [57] of previous thread LWYH wrote:
    Secondly, in the above example, your phrasing of “routine compliance-oriented activity” is just a long-winded way of saying “law enforcement”.

    I've been on the receiving end of compliance-oriented government oversight, and I can tell you, there's a difference.

    In an endorsement system, the law-enforcement professionals gather evidence and identify suspects, until the bad guys are caught and punished. That can be criminal penalties imposed after the prosecution proves guilt beyond reasonable doubt (or there's a plea agreement). It can be civil penalties imposed after counsel for the plaintiff shows culpability by a preponderance of evidence (or there's a settlement). Or it can be an administrative sanction, imposed after an administrative finding of wrongdoing. Either way, the bad guys are caught and punished.

    In a compliance situation, there ain't no bad guys. There's only people trying to get their stuff done, but maybe getting it wrong and causing harm. With me, it was running a wastewater treatment system. The people at the DEQ didn't want to find out if I was a bad guy. They just wanted to make sure I did my job well enough, and had a good enough system to work with, that I didn't have too much phosphate going into the river. They took for granted that I would also prefer to do my job properly, all else equal, but they couldn't take for granted that I actually would, without some monitoring. It's the sort of thing that could easily get lost in the shuffle, if there hadn't been a system in place where I sent in samples of my wastewater occasionally, and (I think) got certified that I'd been trained to operate the system correctly.

    Sure, if I (or more likely my boss) had not merely been out of compliance but consistently acted in bad faith, they presumably would have gone to enforcement mode. But it's not routine, and it doesn't get in the way of effective compliance monitoring.

    It may sound like mere semantics, but it makes a world of difference when you're the one who's being subjected to it.

    Traffic stops shouldn't be a tense situation where you're treated like a suspected bad guy. They should be about public safety, making sure people follow the rules of the road. There are better ways to catch bad guys who have committed major crimes like murder 1. Maybe there didn't use to be, but we have a lot more options now.

  18. [18] 
    dsws wrote:

    Dang auto-incorrect. "Enforcement", not"endorsement".

  19. [19] 
    dsws wrote:

    And no, I have not done a ride along. I don't think they're a thing around here. When I googled it, I got stuff about far away for what you're talking about with an ordinary civilian, and stuff from here about sending EMTs out with cops.

  20. [20] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    What brought you to live on a Rez?

    The ministry I worked for, YoungLife, has a motto that says, “YoungLife for EVERY kid.”
    Despite YL being an international organization with chapters on every continent but Antarctica, we did not have a single chapter that focused on Native American high schoolers. How could they say “YoungLife for EVERY kid” when it was more correct to say, “YoungLife for EVERY kid but Native American kids!”??? So, I volunteered to go if they could find a reservation that would be interested in having me. Montana’s regional director contacted me and a year later, I was moving from Atlanta to live on the Rez. I was there for three incredible years, but had to leave when I decided that I could not stay in the closet any longer. My employment contract would not permit it.

    Those were the three toughest years of my life, but they were great ones, nonetheless!

  21. [21] 
    dsws wrote:

    [29] of previous thread Michale wrote:
    It sounds like Dan is trying to justify the criminals actions of shooting cops... But I know that THAT can't be right....

    Yes, you do. I'm trying to prevent it. The bad guys shoot at cops when they think it's their least-bad option. Shooting at cops is never a good option, and even bad guys know it. But if they're going to be caught, and the cop doesn't appear to have adequate backup on the scene, then they sometimes will. Mix enforcement with routine compliance, and that's what they'll think.

    If it's a meter maid putting a parking ticket on the bad guys' car, they know they will get to drive away. So they don't shoot the meter maid. They know their license plate has been run through the computer, so they'll drive away in a hurry because the cops are going to show up with adequate backup that shooting will be futile.

    I want the people handing out traffic tickets to be safe the way meter maids are safe (the bad guys have no reason to shoot at them), and I want the people apprehending murder suspects when a traffic stop provides the lead to be safe the way the cops are safe who apprehend murder suspects when a parking ticket provides the lead (they know what they're going into, and they bring overwhelming firepower).

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    The churches in Canada are all involved in fighting for justice for First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. The don't go as far as I would say they should go but, at least they are involved in an organization called the Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC). I started a chapter of ARC in my city but I haven't really been involved for many years now though I still support their struggle for self-government and a relationship with the federal government that is based on mutual respect and equality. I'm going to have to re-connect ...

    That you move from Atlanta to a Rez in Montana says quite a lot about you and your values and your support for justice for Native Americans. I salute you!

    I am very sorry to hear about those ridiculous employment practices that wouldn't let you be you. :(

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Hey, Russ!

    Have you ever heard of Thomson Highway and his book and play, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing!?

  24. [24] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    He was head of the Native Performing Arts Theatre, or, at least involved with them, in Toronto.

    I went to see that play and it was, at once, hilarious and heartbreaking.

    The subject matter, which involved hockey, centered around the loss of land and the figurative rape of Mother Nature.

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Native people see themselves as protectors of the earth, and rightly so - that play just brought home that concept like nothing else ever could.

  26. [26] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    I am not familiar with Highway’s work. I have met Sherman Alexie, author, poet, and Native American activist. His wife was on YL staff in Seattle. I am amazed at the number of different tribes that are still in existence. That and the fact that they can all tell what tribe people are members of just by their different physical features. I wish I had learned more of their language when I lived there.

  27. [27] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    First Nations are here to stay!

    Our Constitution actually protects Aboriginal and Treaty rights, in so many words! And, there have been some Supreme Court cases that, ostensibly, do the same.

    But, the struggle for justice continues ...

    It is truly amazing how the Indigenous Peoples and many of their languages have survived the onslaught since they first discovered Columbus on their shores, against all odds, policies and actions meant to make them disappear.

  28. [28] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    well if we're going to ignore the news and go with wishful thinking on names that respect amerindian history, how about the Washington Nations.

    with that name they could even keep the logo, which was created by a member of blackfeet nation.

  29. [29] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ... a testament to their strength of character and culture and an unparalleled capacity to persevere.

  30. [30] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What news, Joshua ... has a name been chosen?

  31. [31] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    oh boy, now there are whispers of something worse going on there.

  32. [32] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    i'm not following ,,,

  33. [33] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    the report is that they'd settled on a name and were in talks over the trademark.

  34. [34] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    but other news outlets are now saying there's a wapo article coming today on something very bad, and unrelated to the team name.

  35. [35] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You mean it's going to get worse?

  36. [36] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    well you know what lily tomlin said.

    things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse

  37. [37] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, there is always one of the late Senator John McCain's favourite Chairman Mao's sayings ...

    It's always darkest before it's completely black. Heh.

  38. [38] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    I still prefer the Washington Predators, but since it's DC and there's DC Comics, why not the Washington Superheroes?

    BTW there's some trademark squatter in VA who has been trademarking possible names for a few years in anticipation of this moment. He owns the Americans, Bravehearts, Federals, Forces, Founders, Gladiators, Monuments, Natives, Pandas, Pigskins, Red-Tailed Hawks, Renegades, Sharks, Veterans, and Tribe.

  39. [39] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Many years ago we started a rec league softball team and named ourselves the No Talent Bums because we knew that's what they would call us anyway.

    When we finally won our first game (against an undefeated team that came in second the previous year) it made a great headline in the local paper "No Talent Bums win first game in four years."

  40. [40] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    dc comics is one of those fun little redundant terms, like atm machine, pin number, chai tea...

  41. [41] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Ha! Call me clueless. I'm not a fan of that stuff.

  42. [42] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Probably best of all would be the Concussions.

  43. [43] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Why did the Twitter hackers not use Big Orange's account for their scam yesterday? Was it a Trump Org grift? Did they assume that Trump-loving illiterati have no bitcoin?

  44. [44] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Mad TV (1995), on-topic, i promise:

  45. [45] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:


    Theory of Hacker News readers: The value of this "hack" on the open market is infinity greater than the likely haul of bitcoin (estimated at about $120K). Twitter probably has a more advanced security system in place for the President's account with more checks and more/quicker reporting. The internal tool used probably can't access that account. It looks like Twitter is about to release a new API in the coming days, so this might have been a last attempt to do something with the internal tool before it's replaced. It was a socially engineered attack rather than a hack.

  46. [46] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Donald Trump Poses With Goya Products One Day After Ivanka Tweets Support
    Both pics may violate federal regulations that forbid government employees to use their positions, titles or authority to endorse products.

    Is this what we down to? hawking beans as a distraction...

    138,358 Americans dead from Coronavirus and counting...

  47. [47] 
    Kick wrote:

    A buddy of mine insists that he knows they're renaming them the "Washington Red Tails." This name works for me because their tails will be red after we get done kicking their butts.

    While they're renaming stuff, they could seriously rename the "Cowboys" the Dallas "Red Necks"... If the shoe fits. ;)

  48. [48] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    You seem to be going well beyond “local policing” in your examples. It sounds like you were dealing with state, local, and possibly even federal regulators when it concerned the waterways in your community. Doubtful the police were too involved as that is not their specialty.

    Personally, I think we’d be much better off if the focus was on our judicial system. Our system pits the two sides against each other... prosecutors are focused on numbers more than getting to the truth in cases. I’d love to see a system where both teams worked to figure out exactly what occurred and why — a system focused on uncovering the truth and getting justice for all involved than it is about one side winning the legal battle.

    Meter maids are not police officers, nor do they handle traffic stops. You do not want traffic stops to include running the drivers’ ID it sounds like. You are choosing for mass murderers to be able to kill countless more innocent victims for what reasons? You keep saying that the bad guys won’t hurt people if the police are just left out of the equation, and that is the most unrealistic thing you could believe! Things can go crazy at any moment on any call. You fail to recognize that when the shit does hit the fan, every second counts.

  49. [49] 
    Kick wrote:



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