I was wondering when the Washington team name would reappear back in popular discussion. It was a big deal for that stretch in the Obama era but as soon as Trump took over and far more absurd things started going wrong the Skins name controversy kind of slipped into the background since it just didn’t seem all that important anymore. Well we are now in a righteous era of removing problematic symbols so it was inevitable that we’d finally come back around to this persistent problem.

It should be changed. The name is pretty blatantly a slur. It might not be a commonly used slur in modern parlance (I’ll get to that) but it feels like stating it is a slur should be a pretty uncontroversial fact. It is a deliberate term to describe someone’s skin color, and the maligned group in question is a group that has received far, far too much oppression already. That it took this kind of societal pressure and sponsors making statements to even begin the discussion process is kind of sad. A name change should not be that serious. It’ll be weird, it’ll be annoying, it will even be hated by some whenever it happens, but people will move on from it and adapt because it just…isn’t that important of a tradition to keep. It is a football team name. It’s not that valuable. Change it. You can even probably find a native themed name that is more respectful to make it work if you need to keep the logo/colors/ all that.

I want to make one thing clear – the name is the problem. I’m actually not bothered by the logo. Granted, I’m a white guy so my thoughts are less important than an actual native american on this, but I always saw the logo as fairly respectful compared to the other native-themed logos out there. It is a dignified head. It isn’t making some stereotypical “BATTLE CRY FACE” like the horrific Seminoles logo nor is it a horrible caricature like Chief Wahoo. Even the Blackhawks seem a bit iffy, though at least it is based on an actual person. The Skins logo seems passable compared to Wahoo and the Seminoles, at least to me. If they did change it however, I would be fine with that.

I think one of the biggest reasons it hasn’t changed is the dreaded cult of tradition and the fact that to a lot of people, it just…isn’t a slur. Let me explain what I mean by that. I grew up in Skins country, in Maryland an hour north of DC. To me, the name never was a slur. To me the term “Redskins” only ever meant one thing: the football team. A lot of people compare the Skins name to someone naming a team the N-word. I can’t quite agree with that comparison because the N-word is still frequently used as a slur to this day. Think about the word “Redskin”. When was the last time you ever heard it used to reference anything other than the football team? Have you ever heard it used as the slur it is defined as in the modern day? I am fully willing to admit my ignorance here and maybe it is still used by racists and hateful people to verbally harm native people, but I’ve never personally seen it myself at any point in my life. To me, it was always just the football team. It took me all the way to adulthood for me to even register that it was a term used to describe someone’s skincolor, that’s how deep and single-purposed the name has been to me. And I’m not even a fan. I imagine the story is very similar to so many other people in the fanbase. It isn’t a slur to them. It is just the name of the team they proudly root for. They don’t want to look at the term as anything other than that, because the team name only has positive connotations to them that feels weird to just write off because some other people say it’s a slur. Nobody has an easy time opening their mind to something that to that point, has always been positive. Nobody wants to feel wrong.

It should probably just change to be respectful and cautious. To some degree it does feel wrong to have white folks deciding the fate of the name and the groups who are in the crossfire should really have a final say. Defenders of the team name like to trot out studies and arguments made by native people who have no problem with the name. Detractors of the name can point to other studies into different native groups who do think the name is racist. Native Americans, despite the term I just used, aren’t some united front of people. They are a lot of diverse tribes and groups with different ideals and cultures with different opinions on the name. So the quandary becomes do we keep the name because some think it’s respectful? Do we get rid of it because some others find it disrespectful? What’s the answer? Frankly, the term should be theirs to own, not ours.

Well, the thing that really sells me is that I haven’t seen any native groups fighting for keeping it. I’ve seen many reports of people who are fine with it. I’ve seen plenty of people point out that many just aren’t bothered by it. But I never see any of these groups campaigning to keep it. We have native groups campaigning to remove it, but nobody outside the active traditionalist fans seem to be fighting to have the name stay. So why not just change it? Something less controversial? It becomes a step forward for those who oppose it and a sidestep at best for those who were fine with it. In a few years everyone will have generally gotten over it. The history of the name will still exist. The history of the team will still exist. None of this is erased by changing the name. But it does take a very small step forward into progress. I don’t think a team name is worth this much defense. Let it go. With any luck, we’ll be able to decide a new name.

If you are a Native American who happens to read this, please offer me any thoughts you have. I’m sure I’ve gotten something wrong or overlooked something else because at the end of the day, I’m just a white dude with mild experience at best in your history and world, and will gladly listen so I can be a little bit better informed for the future.