“We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps,” Dan Snyder, Washington NFL team owner and large, whining baby, said in 2013.
Today, Snyder faces a reckoning. After George Floyd’s killing, as millions protested police violence and racism, the scales have fallen from our collective eyes. Many who didn’t want to see our societal inequity now can’t unsee it — that it was right in front of us, that it was even on our NFL jerseys.
And those symbols are falling. Statues of slave owners have been pulled from their pedestals, and NASCAR has banned the Confederate flag from its tracks.
We don’t need to cling to a name or a symbol when it holds people back, and it’s well past time to jettison the Washington NFL team’s name.
Like those old statues that have been pulled down in recent weeks, the Washington name has expired. The name and logo might not be a bronzed edifice on Monument Avenue, yet it’s still time to throw it into the nearest lake. Or put it in a museum, tell the story of its racist history and what the term signified to many native people — a slur, a dehumanizing parody of a culture. A reminder that how a white owner viewed the nickname was more important than the people he purported to honor.
“If you wanted to avoid the statue in the square, you can maybe drive around it or avoid the area,” Carla Fredericks said. “Unfortunately, if you want to avoid the Washington name and logo, it’s ubiquitous and very hard to shield.”
For a decade, Fredericks has been advocating for the mascot’s removal from her position as the director of First Peoples Worldwide and director of the American Indian Law Clinic at the University of Colorado Law School. She saw an opening as companies like Nike and FedEx put out statements promising to do better to combat racism.
Fredericks reminded those corporations that it is impossible to combat racism with one hand, while funding it with the other.
“We can’t be so afraid of evolving that we remain entrenched in outmoded ways of representing people,” she said.
Oh, but Snyder can be afraid of evolving. Snyder announced Friday — in a news release that used the slur 10 times — that he would “review” the use of a racist nickname that people have been telling him is racist for at least a decade. He’s held onto it as college and high school teams across the nation picked new names out of respect to the groups that requested it.
A respect that Snyder shows a symbol, but not the people that symbol represents.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement on Friday: “In the last few weeks we have had ongoing discussions with Dan and we are supportive of this important step.”
How precious. Think of Goodell as a patient young father, trying to coax a bawling toddler out of the middle of the street.
From the Washington team’s “review” news release: “This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community is proud to represent on and off the field.”
The lack of Native American consultants could not be more glaring.
Fredericks has some thoughts on the replacement name and logo. It should be something that helps the fan base move along, so no reds or skins.
“It takes a lot of time for fan behavior to change, especially if the logo is the same,” she said.
It’s inevitable that after this review, Snyder will sullenly exchange the racist name for Goodell’s lemon lollipop.
When this happens, don’t give Snyder an ounce of credit, and you can put that IN CAPS. That we’ve all been subject to this stubborn rich kid’s predilection for racist imagery for a decade longer than most high schools kept their native mascots is a testament to how willing NFL ownership is to overlook the personal failings of their brethren.
Snyder doesn’t get a statue at any new stadium on the RFK site, which is on hold as D.C. lawmakers refuse to grant Snyder the land without — all together now — a name change. His legacy as an NFL owner, other than his failure to build competitive teams, is the shame that comes with clinging to a racist name and icon.