Leading national newspaper The Chicago Tribune published an editorial last weekend calling on the Washington NFL team to change its offensive team mascot.
Citing the Change the Mascot campaign as a major force in the growing movement, the article discusses the widespread and rising public support for a name change. The piece also illustrates numerous examples of how high schools and universities across the country have successfully changed their names to move away from racially-offensive mascots.
For the full piece, visit the Chicago Tribune or read below.
Redskins should change name
Let the fans choose a new name for the Washington Redskins
November 30, 2013
It has been 21 years since Naperville Central High School changed the name of its sports teams from Redskins to Redhawks. Naperville Central survived. Imagine that.
Students initially continued to chant “Redskins” at games, and the school made no effort to stop them. After a couple of years, most students couldn’t remember the team as anything but the Redhawks.
“It really didn’t take too long before it was no longer an issue for the students,” says Tom Paulsen, who was principal at the time.
“Issues of mascots, they’re not substantive issues, it’s Naperville Central and what it stands for,” Paulsen said. “You can rally a team around a mascot, but really it’s not the mascot at the heart of things. There still will be a Naperville Central High School and what it stands for no matter what the mascot is.”
Which brings us to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who stubbornly clings to a team name that is a racial epithet.
The debate over the name of Washington’s professional football team has been waged for years. This page first suggested back in 1989 that it be changed. That debate has more traction now because the team faces a critic that is more persistent and has deep pockets to finance a campaign. As The Washington Post recently reported, the Oneida Indian Nation, which is leading the campaign, has become a financial and political powerhouse thanks to its huge interests in casino gambling in New York state.
The Oneida Nation’s “Change the Mascot” campaign has gained support. The council of the District of Columbia voted this month to call for a name change. President Barack Obama and several members of Congress have supported a change. Some news media outlets have stopped using the word “Redskins” in their coverage of the team.
Washington’s fans are buoying the team’s ownership: According to surveys, most fans support keeping the name.
Snyder should take a look at the course of recent history.
A Capital News Service project found that 28 high schools in 18 states have dropped the name Redskins. Many colleges and high schools have changed other team names, mascots and images that are offensive. The Marquette Warriors are now the Golden Eagles. Southeastern Oklahoma State University no longer rallies around the name Savages. It is much easier for the University of Illinois to say that the nickname “Illini” is used respectfully now that Chief Illiniwek no longer dances at halftime.
Washington has some experience with this kind of change. In the 1990s its NBA team dropped the name “Bullets” because of the inference to violence and became the Washington Wizards.
Nearby Baltimore’s civic pride was shattered when the Baltimore Colts abandoned the city and moved to Indianapolis. But Baltimore got another NFL team and picked a great name: the Ravens. The name, drawn from one of the great works of Baltimore’s Edgar Allen Poe, was the overwhelming favorite of fans in a Baltimore Sun poll.
Mr. Snyder, change the name of the Washington Redskins. You can do what Baltimore did: create some enthusiasm by letting the fans have a say and choose a name that honors the community. You’ll find what loads of other teams have found: The name will change, the controversy will end, people will move on.