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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Washington Redskins’ racist mascot must be changed

A mascot is a brand, a symbol, an icon, a rallying point and a banner of an organization.

“When someone asks your favorite team, you don’t say Washington,” said Guilford College head football coach Chris Rusiewicz. “You say the Redskins.”

But what if that mascot stands for something else?

The Washington Redskins football team has a mascot emblazoned on its helmet with a tainted history that has outlived its welcome in a sport that, according to Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman’s interview with Time Magazine, is still home to active racism.

The direct origin of the word “redskin,” as is the case with the origins of so many words, is shrouded in uncertainty. What is clear is the way it has been used.

Member of the Pawnee nation of Oklahoma and the Smithsonian Institute Kevin Gover described what he had come to know about the use of the word in an interview with Esquire Magazine.

“I’m really not that interested in where the word comes from,” said Gover. “It’s been used in a disparaging way for at least a couple of centuries. “Up to and including the time I was growing up in Oklahoma.”

Wherever the word started, it grew into a symbol of violence during the 1800’s. Newspapers ran ads offering payment for redskins, or, proof of Native American death.

Though the word may not mean exactly what it did then, its evolution has seen it hold onto its derogatory and hurtful edge.

“I do think its offensive,” said junior Timothy Barrows. “You wouldn’t name a team the Washington Blackies.”

The Oxford Dictionary also lists the word as an offensive name for  Native Americans.

How can any league or sports community support the continued use of a defined derogatory term?

Skins fans rationalize its use claiming tradition as the reason.

“I don’t know if I would rename the team or not,” said junior Matt Pawlowski, quarterback of the Guilford football team. “The team has been around for a long time, and it seems that only recently it has become a real issue.”

The sentiment seems to be shared between football players and fans.

“I don’t think it’s offensive; they’ve had it for so long,” said sophomore and Washington fan Nick Matt. “It’s a kind of tradition.”

The Redskins organization has carried the name since 1933. Europeans began brutalizing Native Americans in the early 1500’s.

An 81-year history of branding pales in comparison to a 500-year history of prejudice.

Other supporters of the Redskins say it is impossible to please everyone.

“When you look at the arguments (against the Redskins’ name), I think people can be offended by anything,” said Coach Rusiewicz.

“If the name is changed, big time fans and players could be offended.”

Why, then, should we aim to respect fans and players on a football team instead of an entire race of historically prejudiced people? The American government has done so much to hurt these people; can we not just give them this?

Plenty of franchises have changed their names, kept their fan bases and moved on to focus on their sport. The Yankees were the Highlanders, The Wizards were the Bullets and the Astros were the Colt .45’s. What could the Redskins be?

“The Scorpions,” said Rusiewicz.

“The Flying Pandas,” said Nick Matt.

“I just don’t know,” said Barrows.

Giving perhaps the most hopeful suggestion, Guilford Head Women’s Softball Coach Dennis Shores recommended “The Nations.”

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About the Contributor
Aubrey King, Features Editor

Comments (5)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
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  • P

    Patrick HolderNov 11, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    There are plenty of names offensive in the dictionary. That’s what freedom of speech is all about. Go ahead and trust your government to self regulate itself about censorship. It will be an unfortunate outcome for you and everyone else.

  • E

    Eugene HerrodNov 11, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Patrick, I think changing the main points of the article to one of poverty on the reservations is a red herring. Granted, there is poverty and other related social ills. That does not mean our communities are not trying to alleviate these issues. However, as long as a racial slur remains the name of a team in our center of government, the team name still elaborates a metaphor in regard to the government’s historical and social policies toward our Native communities. Moreover, losing the trademark logo does not impair the team’s First Amendment rights. The team can still use the name; it simply no longer has trademark protection based on an administrative court decision regarding the disparagement of a group of people–in this case American Indians. Lastly, Oklahoma is not racist. It’s historical socio-linguistic use does not equate the same context as Redskins, which is a dictionary defined pejorative. “Okla”–means people in the Choctaw language; however, Choctaw does not elaborate the same color spectrum as English. “Homma” could mean brown, tan, or rust colored. Therefore, Oklahoma could translate as tan people, brown people, or rust colored people. As the Director of the Southern California Indian Center, I wanted to clarify your assertions. Thank you for your interest in this serious issue in our Native community.

  • A

    AdrockNov 9, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    All the proof you need to BAN THE NAME!! from the Oxford English Dictionary—

    Pronunciation: /ˈjaŋki /
    Definition of Yankee in English:

    1often derogatory An American.

  • P

    Patrick HolderNov 7, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    I just noticed in your article the mention of Oklahoma. The state’s name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning “red people”.
    Shall we all assume “Oklahoma” is racist too?

  • P

    Patrick HolderNov 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    I graduated from Guilford in 87. Is Guilford College joining the failed attempts by a President and a Democratic Congress to bully and shame a privately owned business into submission? Your limited perception of censorship by a Government that fails to regulate itself in other highly questionable Constitutional issues, like the Patriot Act, regarding citizen’s Freedoms shows your opinion is based on emotions rather than facts and Constitutional law. Laws I might add that affect your freedom of speech as well. It’s disconcerting to think that Guilford allows such an opinion to be openly expressed, failing to recognize law and failing to recognize Constitutional rights of citizens to privately own a business.

    If you have (all of a sudden 80 years after the team name originated) a passion for helping the cause of Native Americans I suggest you ask the Government why it is failing to have a public discussion of the abysmal poverty on Native American Reservations and its sole responsibility in the demise of Native American communities. You can start by asking Senator Cantwell from Washington state, leading the charge against the Redskins, why she is failing to notice Native Americans in her own state living in poverty. Poverty in Washington is ranked in the top 5 worst states for the entire Nation.

    There are much larger topics to address in our Nation than a football team name. Changing the name will not bring one penny of change from any politician, nor will it mean any laws changing to truly help Native Americans living in poverty. The only law in risk of changing might be our own freedom of speech , and this glimmer of online attention you receive as if youve suddenly donned Superman’s cape for “fighting racism”, but actually doing nothing in taking a true action to help Native Americans at all.

    But your opinion does fit nicely with others opposing the name: talking loud yet doing nothing.

    Patrick Holder
    Performing and Visual Artist, 1987