BOB COSTAS: With Washington playing Dallas here tonight, it seems like an appropriate time to acknowledge the ongoing controversy about the name Redskins.
Letâ€™s start here. There is no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snyder, or any official or player from his team, harbors animus toward Native Americans or wishes to disrespect them. This is undoubtedly also true of the vast majority of those who donâ€™t think twice about the longstanding moniker. And in fact, as best can be determined, even a majority of Native Americans say they are not offended.
But, having stipulated that, thereâ€™s still a distinction to be made. Objections to names like â€śBraves,â€ť â€śChiefs,â€ť â€śWarriors,â€ť and the like strike many of us as political correctness run amok. These nicknames honor, rather than demean. They are pretty much the same as â€śVikings,â€ť â€śPatriots,â€ť or even â€śCowboys.â€ť And names like â€śBlackhawks,â€ť â€śSeminoles,â€ť and â€śChippewas,â€ť while potentially more problematic, can still be okay provided the symbols are appropriately respectful â€“ which is where the Cleveland Indians with the combination of their name and â€śChief Wahooâ€ť logo have sometimes run into trouble.
A number of teams, mostly in the college ranks, have changed their names in response to objections. The Stanford Cardinal and the Dartmouth Big Green were each once the Indians; the St. Johnâ€™s Redmen have become the Red Storm, and the Miami of Ohio Redskins â€“ thatâ€™s right, Redskins â€“ are now the Red Hawks. Still, the NFL franchise that represents the nationâ€™s capital has maintained its name.
Think for a moment about the term Redskins and how it truly differs from all the others. Ask yourself what the equivalent would be if directed toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians or members of any other ethnic group. When considered that way, Redskins can't possibly honor a heritage or a noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It's an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present day intent. It's fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended. But if you take a step back, isn't it clear to see how offense might legitimately be taken?