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Jack Baer

The argument over the use of Native American mascots in schools is now up for debate in the Wisconsin Legislature.

This is a complicated issue that pits what some would call the irrationality of sports fandom and tradition against the pain of one of the most downtrodden groups in American history.

Before that debate can be fully engaged however, we need to talk about the Washington Redskins. Because as long as we discuss the morality of Native American mascots, the Redskins will loom large as a truly brutal example of what continues to be defended by sports fans.

The Random High School Indians or the Whatever Prep Chiefs won’t really seem that bad as long as the Redskins continue to exist under their current name. It’s like complaining about a leaky faucet when your basement is flooding.

I grew up in the Washington D.C. area. I’m a Nationals fan, I’m a Capitals fan, I’m a Wizards fan, and I’m a Ravens fan. I’m not a Redskins fan, and the name is a big reason why.

Rooting for what was pretty clearly a racial slur just felt creepy to 12-year-old me.

Maybe it would be okay if the Redskins were partially owned or operated by Native Americans, or at least named by Native Americans. But the reality is the Washington Redskins have always been run by white people, and some notoriously racist white people at that.

The man who brought the Redskins to D.C., George Preston Marshall, flat out refused to sign a black player onto his team until 1962. He only buckled when two cabinet members threatened to revoke the Redskins stadium, which was paid for by the government.

When Marshall was lying on his deathbed in 1969 he asked for a foundation to be set up in his name, under the stipulation that not a penny would go to any purpose supporting racial integration in any form. This is the man who named the Redskins.

Maybe the name would be even slightly defensible if it were coined by some sort of Native American interest. But the fact stands—they were named by one of the most disgusting racists in sports history.

Because of that and so many more obvious reasons, it’s pretty clear the time has come for notoriously stubborn Redskins owner Dan Snyder to change the name.

President Barack Obama believes it, saying he would consider changing the name if he were Snyder.

Bill Simmons and Peter King, two of the most influential sportswriters in the world, believe it, even going so far as to refuse use of the name in their columns.

Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is beginning to believe it, backtracking on previous statements in which he ironically called the name, one that has prompted endless debate, a “unifying force.”

Snyder can cite tradition, flawed opinion studies of Native Americans and a fake “American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska” (seriously, google this, the guy’s name is Chief Dodson) all he wants.

The day I believe Snyder truly has no problems with the name is when he invites a Native American tribe to FedEx Field and freely calls them by the moniker he himself has judged to be non-offensive.

Until then, Snyder is just an owner of a badly named business which he’s too stubborn to rebrand.

Unless he reverses course, and quick, we’re going to remember Snyder in the same light as Marshall, a man embarrassingly behind the racial realities of his time.

Is Jack right about abandoning the Redskins as a mascot? Is it a harmless name meant to honor Native Americans? Email to let him konw.

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