Growing up in the Washington D.C. metro area has made me a D.C. sports fan through and through, with one exception, the Washington Redskins. For the rest of this article I will refer to that organization as the D.C. football team.
The D.C. football team has faced heavy criticism for its name. The term “redskin” has two main origins, both of which are derogatory. The first is a slur for Native Americans used by British colonizers who chose to identify them crudely by their skin tone. If you were to look at the name from this angle, how is it any different from calling the team by any other slur?
The second origin is much more gruesome than just an association with skin tone. It references the bloody Native American scalps which could be exchanged for bounties during the brutal conquest of Native American lands as part of the westward expansion of the United States in the 1800s. Newspapers from the late 19th century show bounties upwards of $250 per scalp. In the trademark cases Pro-Football Inc. v. Harjo and Pro-Football Inc. v. Blackhorse, the plaintiffs used this definition as a major point in removing the name since it was deemed a slur. However, both court cases were decided in favor of Pro-Football Inc. due to the First Amendment.
In addition to the name, the D.C. football team owner, Dan Snyder, has a reputation for being rude, controlling, and obsessive. Having purchased the team in 1999, Snyder has clashed with fans on multiple occasions. During his 21 years in charge, Snyder has had nine head coaches and 21 starting quarterbacks.
The inconsistency has been unpopular with the fans and according to Forbes, saw the team fall from the fourth most popular team to seventeenth in 2009. Snyder saw his largest backlash when he sued season ticket holders who could not pay during the 2008 recession, despite insisting they had over 200,000 people on the waitlist. The following season, Snyder banned all signs at the home stadium, FedEx Field, but later lifted the ban after public outcry.
The mascot name, in addition to the D.C. football team, is used by Red Mesa High School in Teec Nos Pos, AZ and Wellpinit High School in Spokane, WA. The mascot has faced plenty of opposition but also plenty of support. Some people see the name in many lights and angles. Some see it as racist, some as historic, and so much more. Personally, I see a racially insensitive team name and a dysfunctional organization that has led to my first and only disloyalty towards the Washington D.C. metro area.