The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Redskins name controversy rages on

4 min read
By MIKEY BARNES “This is their year.” Four words heard muttered prior to the start of every season for the Washington Redskins. Currently standing at 2-5, it seems as though it may be another year where things just do not go right for the Skins.

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Courtesy of Associated Press
Associated Press


“This is their year.” Four words heard muttered prior to the start of every season for the Washington Redskins. Currently standing at 2-5, it seems as though it may be another year where things just do not go right for the Skins. With a number of other injuries plaguing the team out of Washington, including one to their starting quarterback Robert Griffin III, it may seem as though their disappointing start is the biggest worry for owner Daniel Snyder.

This, however, is not the truth, as the owner for more than 15 years now is currently struggling with a debate over the title of his team. The debate at hand, which many may have already heard of, is over the title Redskins and whether or not it is derogatory toward American Indians.

This issue revolving around a possible name change has prompted numerous fans, and even politicians and notable celebrities, to voice their opinion.

“If I were Snyder, I would think about changing the Redskins’ name,” Obama said in a press conference.

With the controversy growing, the U.S Patent and Trademark Office removed the trademark protection for the Redskins, stating that the term is derogatory.  A number of journalists and broadcasters (including hall-of-fame quarterback and broadcaster for CBS Phil Simms) have also stated that they refuse to use the name Redskins in any form of media. This, along with other bad publicity has caused trouble for Snyder and the rest of the organization. Recently, the ever so popular show South Park, known for spoofing organizations and celebrities, aired an episode poking fun at Snyder and the Skins.

In 1933, the NFL team was the Boston Braves, and they changed their team name to the Boston Redskins in an attempt to separate themselves from Major League Baseball’s Boston Braves, while maintaining the same logo. The team then moved to Washington in 1937, where they have remained since. Then owner George Preston Marshall reportedly named the team in honor of then head coach William Dietz, who was said to be part American Indian, along with a number of the members of the team with apparent American Indian backgrounds.

The word Redskin itself has a number of meanings, all referring to American Indians. One of the two most notable definitions of the term is that it refers to the skin color of American Indians being similar to that of the color red. The second most commonly suggested idea behind the term is the fact American Indians were known to cover themselves in red paint.

The possibility of it referring to their skin tone is the basis of this back-and-forth debate. Dozens of different American Indian tribes have expressed distaste for their organization’s name, as have members of the Indian Affairs Committee, who have stated that they refuse to support a team that boasts such a “derogatory” title.

With all the criticism he has received, Snyder continues to stick to his guns and is adamant in his refusal to change the team’s name. In a recent interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” Snyder said that the term is not an attack on American Indians and that it is actually a compliment.

“It’s just historical truths, and I’d like them to understand, as I think most do, that the name really means honor, respect,” Snyder told John Barr of ESPN.

When asked what his definition of a Redskin was, he responded, “A Redskin is a football player. A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride.”

Snyder’s continuous efforts to preserve the Redskins name has continued to spark and increase these debates. The owner refuses to budge in his support of the team and the name it bears, despite the current animosity toward the team.

University of Mary Washington students voiced their own opinions on the situation at hand.

“They need to keep the name as is and move on from this debate,” sophomore Martin Gomez said.

Sophomore Jasmine Turner disagreed, offering a counter to Gomez’s opinion.

“I believe it’s the fact that those who claim it affects them and their heritage in a negative light can change the name of the an American football team so completely because it is as close as they will ever get to gaining back what little they can. Especially after how much they had lost so long ago,” Turner said.

Only time will tell which direction this case takes. No matter which direction you and your opinion may lean, keeping an eye on the situation at hand is important. The voice of the people can ultimately hold the deciding factor.

The Redskins will take on the Dallas Cowboys on Monday, October 27, in one of the best rivalries in sports.