NFL: When Money and Racism Collide



Esteemed Sports Illustrated writer Peter King made waves last week in his “Monday Morning Quarterback” column when he brought up that football team from Washington. No, he didn’t call out its defense’s slow start, nor did he criticize Robert Griffin III for his first half performance against the Eagles. It wasn’t what King said, per se, but rather what he didn’t say.

King announced to his readers that he was going to stop using the term “Redskins” in his writing, citing its derogatory nature and origins. This is not a new idea, but when someone of the stature of King takes such a drastic stretch, sweeping the issue under the rug is no longer an option. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was even asked about the issue a few days after King’s article, saying that it was going to be Owner Dan Snyder’s decision and he wasn’t going to intervene. While Snyder has decided so far that Washington will keep their nickname, that choice doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do.

The argument against the name is simple: it’s an offensive term. Native American organizations have come out and demonstrated their disdain for the name and have urged Snyder and the Redskins organization to change the name. The argument has been made that the term is not being used in a “derogatory manner.” I disagree. At its root, a word is simply a word and it will always stand by its definition. Many football fans hear “Redskins” and think football. They think about RGIII, Alfred Morris and all the oxygen masks that were needed last Monday to keep up with Philadelphia. But when the Native American population hears this term, it’s offensive and you should not believe any non-Native American who tells

you otherwise.

Another argument I hear is about history. Washington’s legacy is as rich as any, going back to the days of George Allen’s coaching tenure, to the days of Joe Theismann and Joe Gibbs; the ‘Skins have won three total Super Bowls. Many see this history tied to the Redskins. I do not. Say the Washington Redskins were renamed to the Washington Senators (speaking of history). Do those championships get thrown out the window? No. Does that mean Theismann’s career (and his injury) never happened? Obviously not.  A name is a name, and history supersedes it. The Redskins’ history and the Redskins’ name are not locked together with the key thrown away.

While the popular argument from the public may be centered around history, I believe the Washington organization has one thing in mind when keeping their name: money. There’s an allure to the name “Redskins” – something that keeps season ticket sales so high and makes people tune in on Sundays. There’s more to Washington than RG3 and Mike Shanahan. There’s more to Washington than Alfred Morris and Santana Moss. There’s the red and gold uniforms. There’s the logo of the Native American man with the two feathers in the back of his hair. There’s the Redskins.

Still, I don’t think there’s one part of this allure that is racist in its intentions. But regardless of intentions, there is racism involved. And this is where the tightrope that Dan Snyder has tiptoed on is getting even tighter. The Redskins don’t mean to be racists, but by using the name, they inherently are.

 In her article this week in USA Today, Christine Brennan points out the hypocrisy of lauded commissioner Goodell. As mentioned, Goodell has said that he will let Snyder decide on the name for Washington going forward. Brennan, though, points out that following Eagles’ receiver Riley Cooper’s derogatory language toward African-Americans this summer, Goodell called out Cooper, calling his actions “obviously wrong…insensitive and unacceptable.”

Forgive me, but I’m having trouble seeing the difference between these

two situations.

Oh wait, I got it! Riley Cooper is an accessory wide receiver on a Philadelphia team already filled with big names like Michael Vick, Lesean Mccoy, Trent Cole, Demeco Ryans and even Chip Kelly. On a team with Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant at receiver, Riley Cooper is a marginal piece. But the Redskins? They’re just the third most valuable NFL team, according to Forbes’ most recent numbers. I don’t think Roger Goodell will be calling up Dan Snyder about this anytime soon.

Contact David Josselsohn at [email protected].