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CASTLE DANGER… As if I needed another reason to have contempt for the NFL. It’s not enough that the wealthiest sports league on the planet can’t build their own stadiums and continually fleeces the taxpayers of our land to do so. It’s not enough that their ticket prices have just about excluded most working people from going to their games anymore. It’s not enough that actually going to one of the games requires you to sit amongst a mob of drunken, foul-mouthed idiots who will beat the snuff out of you if you have the colors of that day’s opposition upon you. No, those reasons, while having made me reconsider my support of this enterprise in the recent past, are taking a backseat to my not new, but ongoing concern over another issue that will soon be rising into our consciousness once again.
The National Football League is racist. The NFL has been racist for a long time. And now, an owner of an NFL team, thus making him a spokesman for the league, has claimed that they will remain racist for as long as he owns a club. Meet Daniel Snyder, the current owner of the Washington Redskins. A brief synopsis of this issue will show that Native Americans protested against the use of this name going back several years, into the sixties. The movement started basically with a declaration by Native Americans that they find the team name to be offensive, with negative racial connotations attached to its use.
The movement evolved to include the use of such names by any and all sports teams and moved into stadium and arena game site protests and eventually into at least one major lawsuit. In the legal action Harjo et al. v. Pro Football Inc., if I have read this action correctly, the plaintiffs sought to negate trademark rights against those who would profit from teams using “disparaging” names, thus rendering it no longer profitable for anyone to have a team with a name of this ilk. A federal judge finally decided the case in favor of the plaintiff Native Americans. When the team was sold by the former owner Jack Kent Cooke to the current owner Daniel Snyder, the new ownership challenged the ruling and it was dismissed on insufficient evidence that disparagement had occurred.
Any appeals since then have been summarily dismissed, with statements that the Native Americans had not pursued the use of their rights in a timely manner and other legal blah, blah, blah. The reason this is going to be an issue again is because a new group of young Native Americans has emerged, ready to press the fight once again. That this is still an issue in this day and age baffles me no end. Equally troubling to me is the number of sports fans who would shout racial epithets toward the protesters, placing their own ignorance of the issue on full display.
Quite a lot of information and polls have been assembled on this matter in attempts to coerce opinion one way or the other. But the one fact that is always conveniently overlooked the most is this: if the use of these names is held to be offensive by enough citizens of a group, then they must be found in contempt. If one person in a million doesn’t like something, that’s one thing, but there are enough Native Americans concerned about this to make it into a bona fide issue. That we are still even debating this today is inexcusable and indefensible. Simple as that.
A solid 70 percent of players in the NFL are black Americans. I have been told by many black acquaintances that they prefer the term “black Americans” to “African Americans.” The reason they have given me is that they are now many generations removed from their connection to that continent and now prefer to simply be known as black Americans. I bring that up because this question is valid: would we stand for an NFL team that was known as the “Niggers”? (By the way, I find that word infinitely offensive, for a variety of reasons, no matter who uses it.) That answer is simple: no, we would not.
So why do we put up with this? Ignorance? Too busy to get involved? Lack of social and/or political courage? I find it more than substantially hypocritical that Snyder, who is Jewish, has such little sensitivity toward the issue. There are many who share his faith who are quick to respond very harshly toward anyone who questions their religion or geopolitical actions and stances of the Jewish state through the Nation of Israel, branding them as anti-Semitic.
One of those involved in the new trademark action, Amanda Blackhorse, has stated that she would like to ask Snyder if he would call her a Redskin to her face. Snyder’s total cop-out type of response was this: “I think the best way is to just not comment on that type of stuff,” adding, “I don’t know her.” What does that mean, Mr. Snyder? If you knew her, you would refer to her as a “Redskin”? Or you wouldn’t? Or is that the only nonsensical answer you could come up with because you know you are on the wrong side of this issue?
Another of Snyder’s recent idiotic responses to USA Today’s Erik Brady was this: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps.” Wow. Snyder is living proof that even wealthy elites like him—supposedly educated, culturally advanced people—can be as ignorant as anyone, social status be damned. Well, here is a message for you, Daniel, and I will put it forth to you inside one of the most timeworn sports clichés known to man: NEVER say NEVER. You can use caps…. PEACE
Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.