Re “Redskins: No harm, no foul,” Opinion, Oct. 15
In response to my remarks on NBC about the Washington Redskins team name controversy, Jonah Goldberg writes of his love and respect for words. So why then play so fast and loose with them?
Goldberg twice refers to my comments as a “tirade.” I defy any fair-minded person to view the two-minute piece in its entirety and find anything in its tone or content that remotely resembles a tirade. He later refers to my “crusade.” How does addressing a prominent football-related issue one time on the very night Washington was playing on NBC qualify as a crusade?
Goldberg writes: “It strains credulity to believe the team name was intentionally pejorative, or that fans or ownership see it that way today.” I went out of my way to stipulate that very thing. Or don't the words I actually used matter if they get in the way of whatever point Goldberg is trying to make in this case?
Goldberg is usually cogent, but we all have our blind spots and hot buttons. For Goldberg, it is the tendency to see liberal boogeymen lurking behind every issue. Always. Yet I clearly delineated the difference between the often silly politically correct objections to other team names and the singularly objectionable “Redskins.”
Every dictionary I have consulted has defined “redskins” with words such as “offensive,” “insulting,” “pejorative” and “derogatory.” No such words are part of the definition of Braves, Chiefs, Warriors or any other team name associated with Native Americans. One would think a professed lover of words like Goldberg would appreciate that clear and compelling distinction, and recognize that many of those who have problems with the name Redskins are motivated not by liberalism or political correctness but by common sense and common decency.
Goldberg misses the point. As a mixed-blood Muscogee and former chairman of the Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission, I can tell you that the term
“redskin” is never used by American Indians to describe ourselves. It is a term popularized by whites and almost always used in a pejorative sense.
More than 20 years after the NBA's Baltimore Bullets moved to Washington, it was felt that the name “Bullets” sent the wrong message; the team became the Washington Wizards in 1997. Likewise, “Redskins” sends the wrong message, especially for a team located in the nation's capital.
By the way, Goldberg's assertion that he is offended by the Philadelphia Eagles being the namesake of the National Recovery Administration's Blue Eagle symbol is both historically correct and profoundly silly.
Why not change the Redskins' name to the Fighting Irish? Apparently that is not offensive.
Is there an objective way to measure offensiveness? Is it 1,000 people complaining, or just 100? The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this is an example of that.
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