Today’s article: “In Landmark Decision, U.S. Patent Office Cancels Trademark for Redskins Football Team,” Travis Waldron, Think Progress
So it looks like the U.S. Patent offices cancelled the trademark for the Redskins name. From what I gathered, this is more a symbolic victory than anything, and if the Redskins either fail to appeal or lose their appeal, the concrete consequences include anyone being able to sell gear with the word “Redskins” on it. Maybe this will be the first push toward noted terrible person Dan Snyder changing the name of his team, maybe it won’t. I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk over this issue, and where we stand.
It’s almost a no-brainer from my perspective. The etymological origins of the word “redskin” indicate that the word has been used as either a derogatory term or a way to identify human beings as “other” in a white/not-white binary. There’s no reason for a word to perpetuate these ideas of Native American inferiority. At the same time, there’s some room for debate in whether its etymological connotations still exist today, and whether the fact that the name has a nostalgic connection with the fans supersedes the fact that some have claimed Native Americans aren’t actually all that offended by the name. There are also studies that say the exact opposite, though, so, yeah. I guess I’ll throw it to you at this point.
It’s a sign of good things to come, but not the closure the Native American community is seeking by any means. Hopefully Snyder gets a clue now, but we are talking about the guy who thought starting the Original Americans Foundation excused decades of bigotry. Then again, he’s a man who solely values wealth, so maybe he’ll be inclined to a name-change knowing that anyone can now legally sell his team’s merchandise in Safeway parking lots. Just kidding, there’s no way he doesn’t fight this.
Mike, my views on etymology are fairly divergent, and crazy-nuanced. I don’t want to get into too much detail here, because my thoughts on the subject often seem offensive when heard in person, not to say anything of when read via web. But, simply put, I don’t think we should use language that has real-world negative effects – if the utterance of a word serves to perpetuate any sort of racism or prejudice, I won’t use it.
With that in mind, of course it’s a no-brainer. As you said, the term bolsters ideas of Native American inferiority, despite what Robot Goodell says. The fact that many aren’t apt to equate “Redskins” with other similarly demeaning racial slurs is evidence enough, to me, that he name needs to be changed asap. If we, as a country, don’t see a problem with the name, it implicitly suggests that we see a natural equation between a despicable term and the people it targets.
Maybe there’s less room for debate here than I initially expected. It seems like we’re pretty much in agreement that a) Dan Snyder is a despicable person and b) there’s no great argument for why the name “Redskins” ought to continue existing. I do agree that Snyder will fight the hell out of this, as rich out-of-touch billionaires are wont to do. It will be interesting to see what his response is regarding the U.S. Patent Office’s decision. My guess is that he doesn’t “get a clue,” as you suggested, he hopefully might. As we saw in part with the whole Sterling debacle, if you have enough money, it seems like there’s no one that will tell you “No” when you set your sights on wanting something. One of Snyder’s more recent public comments on the matter was “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
Let’s talk about that last sentence you’ve written. Can you expand a little bit upon what exactly you’re saying? Wouldn’t the country’s rejection of the name suggest an acceptance of the equation between the term and the people?
Also, throwaway point: is Robot Goodell the most detestable commissioner of the past 15 years? He really exudes 0% empathy. It’s scary to imagine how he’d handle the Sterling situation.
Because we haven’t already slobbed enough Grantland knob, everyone ought to read this. Snyder gets torched.
Maybe I need to clear up what I mean by “equation.” I don’t mean it in the signifier-signified sense; everyone knows “redskin” is a label for Native Americans. What I meant to say is that, if we think it’s okay to use an atrocious term like “redskin” to describe a community, it implies that we must find the people of that community similarly atrocious. “Redskin” connotes a sort of primal, sub-human beast. If you don’t see a problem with using the name, then I’m going to go ahead an assume you truly see Native Americans as primal, sub-human beasts.
God no, Mike, and I’m offended you would even ask. In case you hadn’t noticed, the best city in the world now only has two major pro sports franchises. David Stern is the worst commissioner of any sport ever, and I hope he is one day subject to a public hanging from the Space Needle.
Signifier-signified! My recent reading of Saussure is paying off! But yeah, that’s what I thought you were getting at. I don’t know if I’d necessarily go as far as you would — that is to say, if you’re okay with the name “Redskin,” you see Native Americans as sub-human — but I definitely think a tolerance of the term is indicative of a gross misunderstanding and unawareness of the power and effects of language.
And scrolling through my Twitter feed, I would think that our general agreement on the issue is a non-controversial one. But you only have to go as far as the Facebook comments of this Washington news station to find a horde of blabbering idiots screaming “#BENGHAZI” and “THANKS OBAMA” and just completely missing the entire conversation we’ve just had. I don’t know if that’s justification for keeping the name around, but I think it’s important to consider that the conversation that’s being had about this isn’t as one-sided as it might appear to us.
Let me take a quick step back. If you’re okay with the name “Redskins,” you either think that Native Americans are beasts, or you’re not aware of the term’s connotations. To the first group, I say, fuck you. To the second, I say, get a fucking clue.
Maybe read some history. You’ll find that, prior to the largest one-day execution in American history, where 38 Native Americans were hanged, newspapers referred to the victims as, you guessed it, “redskins.” But even beyond that, if you’re not aware of why using “Redskins” is bad, take literally, like, 10 seconds to reflect. Would any of those unaware supporters of the name be okay with an NFL team called the “Blackskins,” or the “Yellowskins”? Of course not, because not labeling people by their pigment is a lesson learned in Human Decency 101.
At its very worst, support of the Redskins name is evidence of harbored racist sentiment. At its most innocent, it’s an inexcusable oversight of the fact that it’s not okay to label people by the color of their skin.