Hail to the…?

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“Hail to the Redskins!
Hail Victory!
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old D.C.!
Run or pass and score — we want a lot more!
Beat ’em, Swamp ’em,
Touchdown! — Let the points soar!
Fight on, fight on ‘Til you have won
Sons of Wash-ing-ton. Rah!, Rah!, Rah!
Hail to the Redskins!
Hail Victory!
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old D.C.! “

That is of course the famous fight song Hail to the Redskins. The modern day lyrics are slightly altered from the original version.

“Hail to the Redskins!
Hail Victory!
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old Dixie!
Run or pass and score — we want a lot more!
Scalp ’em, swamp ’em — We will take ’em big score
Read ’em, weep ’em, touchdown – we want heap more
Fight on, Fight on — ‘Till you have won
Sons of Wash-ing-ton. Rah!, Rah!, Rah!”

I understand tradition. I get it. People fear change. People have hats and jerseys and banners and shirts emblazoned with the name “Redskins” or the Native American profile that has long been the symbol of the franchise. I understand that it’s inconvenient, and I understand that it would take people time to get used to. But I also don’t care. Teams change cities, coaches, quarterbacks, and roster members every single day. In theory at least, all of these things should mean more than the name on the jersey. So why don’t they? And if the name on the jersey means so much, then shouldn’t it be something that doesn’t offend fans or potential fans? Even a small portion of them?

Imagine for a moment a hypothetical sports team which exists somewhere in the deep south, maybe in Alabama or Mississippi. Their team name is the Birmingham Blackskins. Their symbol is a picture of a strong and proud looking slave, and the team insists that this isn’t meant to be offensive, but rather to honor the history and the sacrifice of African-Americans in the southern United States. Does anyone really think that this team name would be considered acceptable? Much less exist for 75 years? Whether the name is meant to be offensive is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it would offend people. Maybe not everyone, but it would offend a lot of people. The only real difference is that around 13% of the country is black and less than 1% is American Indian. That doesn’t change the fact that people are offended by it. I am offended by it. But a 25 year old white guy saying Redskins is offensive doesn’t carry a lot of weight. And since most of us don’t know an American Indian, we all just seem to ignore it.

Here is my case for change:

  1. Money. If Dan Snyder thinks that changing the team name will lose him a lot of money, he is dead wrong. People in Washington love this football team, and if the name changes a lot of them will piss and moan about it for a while. But they won’t stop watching, they won’t stop coming. And most importantly, people like new things. A guy who has been wearing his Darrell Green jersey for the last 25 years might buy a new one if the name is different. The miniscule number of people who will abandon the team in protest of a name change would easily be cancelled out by the young fans brought in by an exciting new name.
  2. Colors. Maybe I am going too far here, but if you are already changing the name, now would also be a good time to change the colors. The Redskins color scheme is one of the ugliest in professional sports. Not to mention, every other team in DC is red and white with a blue accent. Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams all have black and yellow/gold, which is badass. Wouldn’t it sweet if DC could rock the red for all of their professional sports teams? Not to mention, the word red is already in the friggin’ name. You could be the Redtails as DC council member David Grosso has suggested. You could drop the skins and just be the Washington Reds. Slap Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren on the helmet and be the Washington RED. I don’t care what they change it to, but an accompanying color change would be a good idea.
  3. End the conversation. I don’t doubt that Dan Snyder could fight legal battles for the rest of his life and keep the franchise name intact. I also don’t believe that a huge portion of the population finds the name offensive. But why have a name that anyone finds offensive? Why not change when their is no compelling reason not to, other than the sake of tradition? If it didn’t offend people, it wouldn’t be an issue at all. If the team makes the change, then they never have to deal with this conversation again.

If Dan Snyder allowed a name change despite there not being a groundswell of people demanding it, he would look like a trailblazer. It would show integrity and moral leadership on his part that he chose to do something despite knowing that it would upset his fan base. And why not, since (with the exception of RG3) every decision he has made in the last 14 years has upset his fanbase.


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