Redskins Name Change - On Turning the Page

One of many experimental iterations ...

Om

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The Washington Redskins, after 83 years, are changing their name.

As a lifelong fan it comes down to two fundamental questions for me. First, should they? And second, as a passionate follower of the team for fifty years, how do I feel about it—how will it affect my fandom?

On the sobering question of “should ...”

For most of my adult life I have defended the team name based on a simple premise—that the only real data I had ever seen suggested some Native Americans were offended by the name or saw it as demeaning, but that they represented far less than a majority. It seemed like a simple equation, one applicable to any social movement. What is the magic number? Should ten percent speak for the majority and force change? Should twenty percent? Forty? I posed that question for many years and never received a considered answer.

So I hailed my Redskins and moved on.

Over the past few months, given developments in this country, my perspective has … evolved. For one thing, I am seeing more and more evidence in the public domain that has me wondering what those data points might look like if gathered today. Maybe “offended” and “demeaned” have always been subjective terms.

There is also a far broader context.

Something is happening in our country. It’s no longer just about a sports team mascot. It is America in the early 21st century, lurching forward in great fits and starts, crashing into guardrails along a road that leads, with a little luck and lots of perseverance, toward a more enlightened, just, and long-lived future. We are all here for the long haul, with our wildly different backgrounds, beliefs and desires, so we are going to have to figure this thing out together. There are existential challenges waiting out there that are going to demand our undivided attention.

Societal change is hard. Inclusion, tolerance, justice, compromise, equality … these cannot just be buzzwords—they should be foundation stones.

As for my fandom ...

I have spent considerable time reflecting on fifty years of Redskins fandom, trying to put a finger on what part of that passion might have been about the name. I’ve looked back on the most heartfelt things I can recall writing about the team, and its place in my life, and found they were about … the team. Not the name. Not the brand. The entity.

The sense of identity I feel with and toward the Washington Redskins has always been about an connection to something—to a team playing a game I love, representing my home, through which I have shared highs, lows, history and hopes with family, friends and neighbors. It was about the camaraderie, the crowd, the colors.

I must acknowledge some wistfulness about such a fundamental change, but I believe that had all other things been equal, I would have felt the same about my team no matter what they had been called.

Except maybe Cowboys.

Many of my fellow Redskins fans, whose passion I do not question, have long said that if the team ever changed its name they would be done. Out. And I think they believed that. I also think that when the Washington ______s become a relevant, contending football team, most will find their way back. It will not be about the name on the banner or logo on the helmet, but passion for the sport, and for the visceral journey of following a team that means something to them chasing a championship.

In 1971, on the final day of the Major League Baseball season, my ten-year-old heart broke on the final day of the Major League Baseball season, as my Washington Senators played their last game. They lost, of course, when the home fans stormed the field, turning an improbable comeback to seemingly win their final game into a soul-crushing forfeit to the NY Yankees.

I don’t remember thinking about the team name then, they were just … my team. And for a time, they continued to be “my team,” even after becoming the Texas Rangers. I followed them daily via the daily sports section, checking the box score, checking the standings, wondering how Jeff Burroughs had done the night before. That lasted a couple of years, but eventually they stopped being “my” team. They were Texas, I was Virginia.

I followed the Baltimore Orioles for a few years, admiring Cal Ripken’s class on and off the field, but I never adopted them or experienced the gnawing in the gut when they lost. I feel wins and losses with Washington on the jersey. Eventually, when the Nationals came to town and “we” had a team again, I enjoyed having a local team to follow, even if I didn’t think much of the name.

The passion didn’t come back right away. Know when it did? When they became a relevant, contending team. So there I was one late night last Fall, no longer a kid but now pushing sixty, chewing my lip, with my gut in a twist, as Washington was this close to winning the World Series for the first time since … forever.

Nationals, huh? Kind of has a ring to it.

I remember when Lew Alcindor became Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. I remember when Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. I remember people much older than I saying they would never respect those men again. I was a kid, I didn’t understand. People were people right?

I did find it strange (they just changed their names—can you even do that?). I found it kind of cool (the names were exotic, classy). And for the first time I became aware certain individuals felt strongly enough about some things to take such a life-altering stand despite the harassment and sheer inconvenience (maybe someday I’ll feel that strongly about something).

My real light bulb moment on the name change didn’t come from analysis, though. It came from the heart.

My oldest daughter is engaged to be married. Like most fathers, I wouldn't hesitate to give my own life for hers. I don’t know if she plans to take her future husband’s name. I do know, should she choose to, that I will celebrate her decision—that it would be right for her.

I also know, beyond any trace of a doubt, that if she does change her name, it will not change my memories, or how I feel about her, or what she means to me. A new name would change nothing that truly matters.

So, one last time … Hail to the Redskins.

Onward and upward.
 

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Art

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It is an interesting take Om.

I wildly diverge from you on the sense of this moment in history and any hint we are tracking toward any sort of enlightenment. For me the question boils down to one sentence in your write up.

The sense of identity I feel with and toward the Washington Redskins has always been about an connection to something—to a team playing a game I love, representing my home, through which I have shared highs, lows, history and hopes with family, friends and neighbors.
The key word for me is "home".

I went to VCU and played sports for and cheered on the VCU Rams. If they decided to stick it to Shaka and rename themselves the VCU Havoc I would, without question, stick with them. They were my school. My identification with them was from my placement and participation, not the name. But, Redskins is different, UNLESS, as you say, you view the Washington Redskins as a team representing home. I think the question largely turns on whether that's what you feel about the team or not. The question, of course, is, do I now still care?

I do not, because I can not, because you accurately captured my thinking, absent the "home" part. The second part of your sentence is my association. An organization I've shared highs, lows, history and hopes with family, friends, neighbors and complete bores on the internet. Every player I've ever loved has been a Washington Redskin. Every cheer I've ever had has been for the Washington Redskins. Every game I went to with my father or my best friend or random duders I could stand slightly more than others has been to see the Washington Redskins.

I named my cat after former Bear, and my favorite Redskin, Wilbur Marshall. I have ruined so many fall apple orchard plans by meddling ex-wives by obstinately sticking with my schedule which mirrored that of the Washington Redskins.

I haven't even considered this through the social lens, which, I would seriously mock.

For me, it's about the team I have associated every football memory within. Good or bad. I wasn't really an NFL fan, I was a Redskins fan. When we did well, I watched lots of NFL content. When we sucked I turned off and went about my daily life, usually a little grumpy through Wednesday or so. Or, more grumpy than usual through Wednesday or so. Everything I know has been the Washington Redskins. I came to them for the first reason you write. I associated them as my "home" team. I was born in Detroit but moved to the D.C. area at the age of 4. I was a Steelers fan until the age of 8, because young people are dumb and the Steelers were great.

But I watched only Redskins games and I recall my "moment" bonding with the team.

I lived in the D.C. area for 14 years when I moved to Richmond and was still in Redskins country. I was there for another 5 before moving first to Durham, NC for 5 (in Panther territory sadly) and then to Minnesota where I've been for roughly the last 20 plus a bit. My "home" is Minnesota. My dumb ass kids can't take a hint and understand daddy really wants to live in a tax free state, or on an island, when he retires, so they should split the country allowing me to say bye and fly them to me when they are free. Instead they want to stay here, and be my neighbors, forever. They are still young and dumb and I have hopes of a tax-free retirement, but it is likely I'll be in Minnesota forever at this point.

I maintained my deep association with the Redskins because of the memories and deep bond of love I developed growing up.

They were always going to be my team.

The Washington Redskins will always be my team.

The Washington Redskins no longer exist.

For those that see their fandom being bound to a place they consider home, either where they live now, or where they just always think of home, it is probably an easy concept to simply grin and bear it, and follow along with the team under a new name. While I agree with you that such carrying on does not take one memory from either of us of the Redskins, it clearly breaks all history and continuity. I know if the new organization wins a Super Bowl they'll claim it's their fourth. And that Darrell Green is a hall of fame player for a team he never played on. But I can't go there with them.

My association is the name.

The song.

The vibe.

The logo.

The colors.

Not the place.

In the NFL everything changes. But the team. Players come and go. Coaches come and go. Eventually owners come and go. The bond isn't with any of them. It's with the Washington Redskins. And they have decided to go.

For me it's not even a consideration as to whether I follow along the linear organization and pretend it will matter to me. It won't. Because it can't. Because I was bound to the organization, the Washington Redskins, not the place, Washington. I hate the Minnesota Vikings, but they are my "home" team. My team, the Redskins, is gone. I don't have a favorite team any longer. Like the Bullets I will always kind of enjoy in the NBA, though they are gone too, I will always probably secretly enjoy when the new team in Washington does well. I'll even watch them when they come across my day in a comfortable way.

But I'm moving on. I've retired as a Redskin fan because Redskins have retired themselves. No one on the current team has played for a team in Washington not named the Redskins.

So, for me, I'll move on to the Vikings. I like bone mugs and am devouring all the Vikings TV shows on to get ready. I know I'll never care. I've started watching their past games and Kirk Cousins is still Kirk Cousins, so I won't celebrate a Super Bowl with this team until he retires. I'll pick the Texans as my nephew is in Houston and my relationship with him in the NFL is threatening to burn his Texans gear. And I won't like them either. I'll casual fan it and hope something sparks. Hope memories for one of the two start to fill my now empty fan box and maybe like one or the other over time.

But the moment the Redskins went away, I remained with the departed team, and no longer have a team to call my own.

Now, ready to talk about the ridiculous social justice stuff? :)
 

Boone

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Well - now I know the Apocalypse is impending - Art and Om in the same thread :)

I think the distinction between those who have always rooted for the team due to being born and/or raised in the DMV is probably accurate and one I hadn't really thought much about. I'm pissed - as pissed as anyone. My anger is fueled even more by the mental midgets trying to position themselves in gleeful support of a new cheesy name - as if we should all 'get excited' about it. I'm not excited. I fucking hate it. And I'll always resent the idea I should just embrace it.

On the other hand, I am from the DMV and nostalgia for the area and past glories following this franchise are my biggest links to it. I'll probably grudgingly follow them going forward, if they can navigate whatever the latest shame yet to be revealed is, and if they can actually build a winning and respected organization again.

But I'll always be bitter about this shit, for all of the reasons I've identified, and for a number of reasons I elect to keep to myself.
 

Sarge

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Good to hear from you Art. Been awhile :)
 

Sarge

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Well - now I know the Apocalypse is impending - Art and Om in the same thread :)
I had a flashback to the heady days of the old place, right after the Sporting News Board. Does that paper even still exist? Now, if we get Die Hard and TK here, it'll be practically a reunion
 

Art

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The good thing about this board is the name represents a color scheme that should stick. So you can move on without any issue. Except those feathers and Indian head in the O part of your logo :).
 

Henry

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Is it me, or does this all feel like the final season of a long-running sitcom? :)
 

Art

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The Red Wolves is so dumb as to be irritating.

The team could have probably even KIND of persuaded me to stick around for at least a minute or two if they just said, "Ok, look, We're the Washington Braves again, and keeping the logo and the colors and everyone can now STFU." But they couldn't even do that. We apparently want to "honor" natives, still, by removing all semblance of it and going with wolves that aren't even as cool as the wolves I have up here, given Timber Wolves would kick the holy shit out of any Red Wolf. At least name it SOMETHING tied in SOME semblance of a way to the city you are in if you're giving it a complete change.

I actually liked the Harlem Globetrotters offering the Washington Generals name. Washington Freedom could even work, though rumor has it a soccer team had that once or something. Washington Revolution. Something. Red Wolves were, sure, common to the southeastern part of the country, but FURTHER south generally. I'd even go with something military slang like Washington Red Horse, which is actually apparently an air force term for Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers :). So something neat at least. You only do this once apparently. Get it right.

I will declare right now, if he goes Washington Bullets, I come back instantly :).
 

Bulldog

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What is disconcerting to me is the equal justice for all argument that LeBron James came out and spoke for is not being reflected by other athletes like Malcolm Jenkins and DeSean Jackson.

These guys are out in the streets for BLM and all over SM but make and tacitly accept racist theories when they are directed at other ethnic groups.

Selective justice is not something to embrace.

And that goes for the names and logos.

If we have come to accept that objectifying human beings as symbols, mascots and the like is wrong then the Indian on the horse at Chiefs games has to go as does the tomahawk chop chant at Braves games.

We need to make a clean sweep of it.
 

Elephant

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I just can't get past anyone on this board saying that this team "should" change their name in these particular times when the members of this board who are from the community the Redskins were meant to honor, actually find no offense in the name and logo. In fact, they chose to be Redskins fans not because they are from Washington, but because the Redskins were a representation of their communities. They took pride in the Redskins and that sentiment is widespread in their communities.
 

Elephant

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The team name must change. That's all there is to it.
It didn't have to. The reason given for the name change is not a realistic view. No one truly took the time to research as thoroughly as the post had done, or more...the money was threatened, so the name changed.

But it did not have to change.

You can stand by and accept it...you can root for the new team. I will root for a different new team, if I root for any team at all. My favorite team, The Redskins no longer exist.
 

Knightingale

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The name change was always inevitable, and as much as we hate it, it has to be now. No matter how many polls or opinion pieces were published justifying it, the name was ALWAYS going to controversial

The societal shift isn't just isolated to the Redskins, or even to the US. This is a global upheaval the likes of which we've never seen before. It's like the world was just waiting for a trigger event to come from somewhere. Years of this pressure building and being suppressed was always going to come to a head. The death of George Floyd and the global pandemic lit a fuse that led to what we're seeing now. Here in the UK, thousands of miles from the US, we're seeing the same upheaveal. Protest marchs in London in their thousands. Statues being torn down. Pubnames being questioned. Even beloved sitcoms like Fawlty Towers being removed from streaming because they 'may cause offence'.

I'm kind of with Om on this. While at the moment this all feels like a knee jerk reaction where the pendulum is swinging waaaaaay too far the other way, my hope is that sooner rather than later it'll settle down in a more enlightened and stable place.

As much as I hate the change, I also recognize that it was never a matter of if, it was always a matter of when. I've thought that way for years. I knew that this team name would change in my lifetime at some point.

What's surprised me is the speed of change.

And what's really pi$$ed me off is how Snyder has handled all this from the get go.

His 'NEVER' statement was always shortsighted, and while it was probably what the fans wanted to hear at the time, he was never going to able to back that one up long term.
This should always have been a gradual thing, where the team could spend time getting the name change right, and also break the fans in slowly to the idea and the new identity.

His NEVER statement always felt, to me, like a spoilt kid ust standing his ground because he could. Now he has no choice and he's still acting like a spoilt kid.
The statement the other day was telling in how he listed the priorities... Sponsors first, Fans second.
He was making a point. I'm only doing this because the Sponsors forced me, so I'm keeping them happy.

This could all have been handled soooooo much better.

As for names... I don't really care. I'll probably always refer to them as the Redskins, it's just habit now. If they're going to pick something, I just want it to be something vanilla and neutral. I'm fine with the RedWolves moniker being thrown around. I don't want anything like RedHawks because I don't want to be ANOTHER bird related name in the NFL (Eagles, Ravens, Cardinals, Seahawks) they've been done. As for things like the RedTails, I've yet to see what I think is a cool logo for that name, they're all clumsy airplane logos and while it's called 'honoring' now, how many years will it be before someone finds a problem with it and we're back to square one.

If we're going to change, just keep it simple. Make sure the name fits the fight song, the HTTR and we keep the colours. I can deal with all that.

What I REALLY want next, is Snyder out. This past year feels like the Redskins organisation is undergoing a huge change itself. It feels like it would be a VERY hopeful future now Allen is gone and it's been as big a clean sweep as we've seen in decades. This team should be poised for a return to relevance... except I still think Snyder and his bad mojo will hold us back. :(
 

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