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Extra Points: Racially insensitive 'Redskins' are anything but
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Daniel Snyder is a lot of things to a lot of people.
Depending on your audience, Snyder may be labeled as a brilliant businessman or perhaps the meddling, often incompetent owner of the once-proud Washington Redskins franchise.
The 'Skins, of course, were a traditional powerhouse who won three Super Bowl titles under the brilliant stewardship of the late Jack Kent Cooke and Joe Gibbs during the 1980s and early '90s.
Since May 1999, however, when Snyder purchased the team and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium (now FedEx Field) for $800 million in what was the most expensive transaction in sporting history at the time, Washington has been awash in a sea of mediocrity, compiling a 101-123 record during Snyder's time at the helm.
Snyder's reign with the Redskins has been defined by a haphazard approach featuring a revolving-door of head coaches as well as a disturbing pattern of signing high-priced free agents in favor of building through the draft, things that have been somewhat alleviated by the hiring of Mike Shanahan as head coach and the drafting of Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick in 2012.
Controversy, though, always seems to find Snyder. Some issues are self- inflicted like when the billionaire had his team sue season-ticket holders who were unable to pay during the 2008-2009 recession. He also has alienated his own fan base by banning all signs from FedEx Field and charging exorbitant parking fees that reach even higher for tailgaters.
In fact, anyone with any knowledge of the NFL and how it works would almost certainly rate Snyder as one of the worst owners in the sport.
All that said, however, it's hard to call him racially insensitive for owning one of most famous franchises in sports, which happens to be called the Redskins.
Snyder recently poked a hornet's nest by going on record saying he would "NEVER" change his team's name, something that set off several members of Congress who evidently haven't been getting enough attention.
In a letter signed by the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus, Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), as well as Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's delegate in Congress and seven others, Snyder has been accused of committing to keep using a racial slur.
"Native Americans throughout the country consider the R-word a racial, derogatory slur akin to the N-word among African Americans or the W-word among Latinos," the letter states. "Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw widespread disapproval among the NFL's fan base. Yet the national coverage of Washington's NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging to Native Americans."
In case you wondering, yeah, you also have been singled out as a racist by Congress for buying that Redskins jersey or hat.
To most of us, this is just another example of political correctness run amuck.
The NAACP first passed a resolution calling for the end of the use of Native American names, images, and mascots in 1999. By 2001, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released an advisory opinion calling for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native colleges.
Some have voluntarily changed their names and mascots over the years. Stanford had "The Stanford Indian" as it mascot from 1930 to 1972 before changing to "The Cardinal" to honor the university's team color. Marquette pivoted from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles in 1994 and Miami University in Ohio began discussion regarding its former Redskins nickname way back in 1972 before making the change to Redhawks in 1996.
Others have held firm, most notably the Iowa Hawkeyes, the Illinois Illini and the Central Michigan Chippewas, whose nickname was placed on the NCAA's "hostile or abusive" list but finally removed when the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation of Michigan pledged its support.
Three other schools -- the Florida State Seminoles, Mississippi College Choctaws and University of Utah Utes -- also were granted waivers to retain their nicknames after gaining support from those respective tribes.
Since I'm not a Native American, I don't feel comfortable telling a race of people to ignore an issue they might feel passionate about. There is no doubt plenty of Native Americans find these types of nicknames deeply disturbing just as the waivers in the NCAA prove there are many who couldn't care less and actually take pride in some of them.
What I am able to say unequivocally is that a word only has power if you let it have power. As an Irishman, I could bend over backwards and say that Notre Dame is bringing up the ugly stereotype of the drunken Irishman by calling its sports teams the Fighting Irish.
Instead I chose to remain lucid and analytical and understand the university isn't trying to offend me or anyone else. It's all about tradition and the same holds true with the Washington Redskins.
Generally when people refer to African Americans using the N-word or Latinos using the W-word, they are trying to be derogatory and hurtful. In this case, you can make a strong argument that a football team turned what was created by white people as a racially insensitive word toward Native Americans into anything but.
There isn't even a hint of animus behind Daniel Snyder's continued use of the nickname Redskins or his team's fans in embracing it. And however it started, the term is now a revered and celebrated part of the Beltway's culture.
Today even the worst Archie Bunker-type personality in D.C. isn't sitting around the dinner table and throwing out "Redskins" to belittle Native Americans. They are wondering if the 'Skins beat the Cowboys.
Native Americans certainly have the right to remain insulted and continue to lobby for a name change. Just understand -- in football at least -- the term "Redskins" is and will remain something positive.
05/29 13:05:14 ET