A Washing-ton of Problems: The Washington Football Team
The recent name change for the Washington Football Team has sparked criticism across the nation. Many fans have called for the organization to change the name once again. Should they make the change again?
by Prithvi Prem
Three years ago today, The Washington Football team hosted its first-ever Thanksgiving day NFL Game. The then-named Redskins managed to defeat the New York Giants 20 to 10. Although this was a momentous win, it wasn’t the sole headline for the day. That afternoon, a small group of Native American activists gathered outside FedEx Field to educate D.C. fans about the irony of the event: a team whose name is a slur against the Native people was playing on a holiday based on damaging the myths surrounding Native Americans. In spite of this being a well-organized protest, its impact would not be experienced until 3 years later.
In July of 2020, on the back of national protests sparked by the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, Washington’s sponsors demanded that the name “Redskins” be retired. The ownership complied and officially rebranded the organization as “The Washington Football Team”. This immediately sparked uproar from the public, who were clowning the organization for the lack of creativity.
This is where the trilemma is presented: should the organization keep its name as the Washington football team, or should they continue to represent themselves as the “Redskins”? Or is there a neutral side to this?
POV 1: The organization should keep its name as the Washington Football Team:
Although a name like “The Washington Football Team” might not be the most creative, there isn’t anything apparently offensive about it. The reason the organization rebranded itself in the first place was to create a more socially acceptable name that would not be rejected by society. That is exactly what they achieved in the name “The Washington Football Team”. It certainly is the safest option and solves the issue of a logo depicting a minority group in a degrading manner.
Another reason why they should stick with “The Washington Football Team” is due to the chance of a massive backlash from the fans if they adopted a new name. “The Redskins” has been the team’s name ever since 1972. A new name would always stand comparable to “Redskins”, creating a sense of dislike and never be liked in the way the “Redskins” were.
A third reason as to why the name is already good enough is because, in spite of the lack of creativity, this name is still very unique in the world of American sports. The only area where a name like “The Washington Football Team” is apparent is in soccer where they have teams names like “FC Barcelona” and “Orlando City SC”. That ironically means that an uncreative name like “The Washington Football Team” is actually one of the more unique names in American sports. That allows the team to be given more attention from the public, which can boost its popularity.
POV 2: The organization should not have gotten rid of the “Redskins”
The “Redskins” name had been associated with The Washington Football Team ever since its creation in 1972. In scrapping the name Redskins, the organization would also be scrapping a great deal of its rich history. The reason the team’s name changed in the first place was due to allegations of “Redskins” being racist to Native American groups. In a poll done by the Washington Post in 2016 though, it was discovered that nine out of ten Native Americans, the group that should be offended by the name, either had no strong feelings towards the name whatsoever or even supported it, calling it a symbol of pride and continuation of the Native American culture.
The Washington Football Team is also not the only team to be named “Redskins”. In fact, there are many high schools throughout the country whose mascot is The Redskins, many of which, are majority Native-American-populated. One of these schools is the Wellpinit High School Redskins in the state of Washington, which is heavily attended by the Spokane Tribe.
The term “Redskins” also isn’t intended to be derogatory/racist. The original use of it was meant to be as sort of a “label” for the native tribes. Although it was used in a derogatory way during Andrew Jackson’s presidency during the 20th century, the racial slur is now basically non-existent. The term highlights the important fact that words can change over time, therefore, the way it is recognized contemporarily is the most critical factor.
POV 3: Guess and Check
The possible neutral side to this issue could be that the organization should just carry out a simple “guess and check” maneuver where they play out the season as “The Washington Football Team” and depending on the public’s opinion, they can change it back. This scenario would be a win-win for both sides: both sides of the fans get their opinions voiced and the organization can be 100 percent certain of what their name should be. In doing this, the team can also avoid major amounts of backlash from fans. If they clearly do not like “The Washington Football Team”, the organization can just change the name back to the “Redskins” or even try another name like the “Redtails” or “ Red Wolves”. If the fans adapt to the new name “The Washington Football Team” then Washington can stick with it for the foreseeable future.
So should Washington have changed their name? I personally don’t think they should have. In my opinion, I feel like the entire Cancel Culture movement (in this case, against the Washington team’s name) has been unnecessary, and should not be as highly regarded as it is today. However, as Washington is an actual professional organization, I would not mind if they stick with “The Washington Football Team” for the rest of the NFL season before deciding on a new name.