The name of Washington, D.C.’s NFL franchise may change at some point — but not on Daniel Snyder’s watch. As long as he owns the team which he bought in 1999, Snyder will hold firm: it will continue to be known as the Redskins.
“We will never change the name of the team,” the owner told USA Today this week. “As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season.”
It has been a source of controversy for decades, for an obvious reason: just about everyone considers the name “redskin” to be derogatory towards the indigenous segment of the population of North America. Other teams such as the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves have also faced this issue, but the Redskins have been identified as a particularly egregious example.
Some attempts have been made to force the team to adopt another nickname. The latest effort has been launched by Amanda Blackhorse, a psychiatric social worker and a native Navajo who has been named as a plaintiff in a case filed as “Blackhorse et al vs. Pro-Football Inc.”
It has all the earmarks of a previous suit, “Harjo et al vs. Pro-Football Inc.,” which lived in the courts of 17 years before being granted a victory at the U.S. Trademark Trial Board — only to be lost on appeal in 2009. Now the original plaintiff, Suzan Shown Harjo, has recruited Blackhorse for the new effort to quash the name.
Blackhorse first became involved when she joined in a peaceful protest outside Arrowhead Stadium in 2005 between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Redskins. “We assembled peacefully and we carried signs,” she said in an interview. “We carried flags for the tribes we represented, to show that we are proud people and very diverse, from many different tribes.
“We wanted to show that we are human beings, not mascots.”
She soon found out that many in the crowd did not want to know, and hurled racial slurs at the protesters. “I got to see firsthand how our culture was being mocked. So many fans were wearing war paint and feathers and they were whooping and hollering. Some of them got belligerent and angry with us. They threw beer at us. That’s not OK. I was afraid for my safety.”
From that day, Blackhorse swore that she would fight for what she believes is right. Her logic is undeniable: they are human beings, not stereotypes to be mocked with war paint and feathers. They deserve respect more than the NFL needs to retain a frivolous nickname which could easily be changed. Too bad Daniel Snyder refuses to see that, because it’s within his power to change it.