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Push to change nickname has many seeing red

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Hail to the Pigskins?

If you read a local Washington, D.C., newspaper, that is what you might find in print, as one local publication no longer will use the term Redskins when describing the local NFL team.

It is not alone.

Sports Illustrated football guru Peter King, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, the entire staff of “Slate magazine and a USA Today writer joined the cause, apparently anointing themselves as the Committee on Political Correctness when it comes to team names.

“Did I want to be part of a culture that uses a term that many in society view as a racial epithet?” King writes. “The answer kept coming back no — and now that I have been charged to run a website, I thought I would finally do what felt right to me.”

Please. No really, please.

When did media elite decide it was within their purview to decide the standards of right and wrong for the rest of us?

Keep in mind:

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has no plans to change the name.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the name does not have to change.

The overwhelming percentage of fans — 79 percent — do not want the name to change.

A significant number of Native Americans do not want a name change; indeed, a number support its use as a proud reflection on their heritage.

That is not to say that the use of the nickname does not offend some, including the influential American Indian Movement and the Oneida Nation.

The latter has launched a radio ad in D.C. The ad slams the NFL Team for using the name “Redskins” and said it’s a “racial slur.”

“We do not deserve to be called ‘Redskins,’” an announcer intones. “We deserve to be treated as what we are — Americans.”

That view no doubt brings glee to Washington’s City Paper, which has replaced Redskins with Pigskins in every story since June 2012.

That vocal minority is countered by many Native Americans, though, who feel quite differently.

Paul Woody of the Richmond Times-Dispatch spoke with G. Anne Richardson, chief of Virginia’s Rappahannock tribe, about the name. According to Woody, she “had to stifle a laugh” when he asked her about the nickname.

“We’re more worried about our kids being educated, our people housed, elder care and the survival of our culture,” Richardson said. “We’ve been in that survival mode for 400 years. We’re not worried about how some ball team is named.”

Robert Green, a retired chief of the Virginia-based Patawomeck tribe, went on SiriusXM NFL Radio to explain the other side of the coin. “I’ve been a Redskins fan for years,” Green said, “and to be honest with you, I would be offended if they did change it.”

You see, the term “Redskin” was first used by Native Americans. Depending on your historical perspective, it was used by the Delaware to describe elaborate body paintings or more widely employed as a way to distinguish oneself from white settlers.

All this discourse is not lost on Goodell, whose job it is to police and grow the league.

The commissioner defended the use of the name to a recent congressional inquiry (our representatives are really spending time on this?), saying “The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context.”

That history is apparently lost on those scribes who now have decided to take it upon themselves to decide what the team should be called in print.

Don’t you dare cross them, as columnist Rick Reilly found out.

“Too late. White America has spoken. You aren’t offended, so we’ll be offended for you,” wrote Reilly in an article critical of the misguided political correctness.

Reilly’s thoughts were immediately attacked by more than a dozen writers, some even calling for him to be fired for expressing his opinion.

There is nothing quite so ironic as someone simultaneously protesting the use of a sports team nickname and insisting that anyone who dares to disagree be dismissed.

Call it political incorrectness.

Oh, did we mention that Reilly, the nation’s Sports Writer of the Year 11 times, was writing from the viewpoint of his father-in-law, a member of the Blackfoot tribe?

All this is not to say that King and his followers are wrong or that Reilly is right.

As is the case with most policy issues in our pluralistic society, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

The Redskins have been the nickname of the NFL team for 80 years now, and a vocal minority has been trying to change that name for at least half that time. Eventually, they might succeed. If and when they do, though, it will be the result of NFL debate and economic reality.

It overstates the importance of NFL reporters to take it upon themselves to rewrite the rules of political correctness.

Call me a Hoosier (which does not offend me, by the way), but King and others should stick to their pay grade.

Hail to the Redskins.

Bob Johnson is a correspondent for the Daily Journal. His columns appear Tuesdays and Fridays. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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