Daily 49er

What’s in a name? For D.C. football, nothing good

It’s well past time for the Washington Redskins to pick a new name.

Greg Diaz, Editor-in-chief

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Remember your high school yearbook; among the messages of “keep in touch” or “stay cool,” there’s usually one person that wrote “don’t ever change.” That is really not the person that you should be listening to. Change is progress and it’s often inevitable.

As each year progresses, it seems that more people are lining up to tell the Washington Redskins that they need to change their name. The latest would be Gerald Bruce Lee, a federal judge who on July 8 upheld the cancellation of the team’s trademark, meaning that anyone would be free to make and sell merchandise with the team’s logo.

The judge joins a growing list of athletes, commentators, journalists, politicians and dozens of Native American tribes and organizations calling for the team to just pick something new already.

Former National Football League cornerback Champ Bailey, who spent five seasons with the D.C. team, told USA Today last year why the name needed to be changed.

A timeline of Native American mascots; U.S. Patent Office canceled six federal trademark registrations the Redskins own on the grounds that the team's nickname is disparaging to Native Americans.

Chicago Tribune | TNS
A timeline of Native American mascots; U.S. Patent Office canceled six federal trademark registrations the Redskins own on the grounds that the team’s nickname is disparaging to Native Americans.

“When you hear a Native American say that ‘Redskins’ is degrading, it’s almost like the N-word for a black person,” Bailey said. “If they feel that way, then it’s not right. They are part of this country. It’s degrading to a certain race. Does it make sense to have the name?”

And yet in the face of this rising tide, Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, has maintained the same stance; something akin to “I don’t want to.”

“We’ll never change the name,” Snyder told USA Today in 2013. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

That is what this debate boils down to: a lot of people attempting to convince a billionaire to do something that he just does not really want to do.

Earlier this month, the state of South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from the front of its buildings; this is not because every flag is meant to give offense, but because there are large groups of people in the United States who do take offense from it.

But the two cases aren’t identical.

South Carolina has an obligation to respect all of its citizens, while the Washington Redskins are privately owned and only answer to other NFL owners.

But when was the last time you heard of a business standing behind something that potential customers might find offensive?

What is most baffling is that there does not seem to be a downside to this move. A study last year by The New York Times found that college teams that have changed their Native American names actually grew in revenue over the next few years.

This makes sense when you consider that many fans would be buying jerseys, shirts and other apparel with a new team logo. It’s why seemingly every team introduces a new version of their jersey every few years.

And it’s a move that would not alienate a lot of current fans.

A 2013 Washington Post poll found while many Washington Redskins fans don’t think that the name should change, 82 percent of fans said they would still support the team with a new name.

The truth is that while the cancellation of the Washington Redskin’s trademark is a legal victory, it probably won’t be enough to force the team’s hand. NFL teams make truckloads of money every year. ESPN reported this week that every NFL team got more than a quarter of a billion dollars from revenue sharing for the 2014 calendar year alone.

In the end it will come down to how stubborn Snyder wants to be. Because that is what’s keeping his team fighting against a swelling support, fighting against racial sensitivity and just fighting against good taste.

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