Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Redskins Name change: Dan Synder it's long overdue
I am a Philly fan (born in Philly and raised in South Jersey) living in DC. The Skins are our bitter rival in the NFC Eastern division -- not quite as bitter as, say, the Cowboys vs. the Skins but, yet in still, no love lost.
I can remember only one game in which I was an unabashed and enthusiastic Skins fan: The Doug Williams Super Bowl!
Super Bowl XXII:
After trailing 10–0 at the end of the first quarter of Super Bowl XXII, the Redskins scored 42 unanswered points, including a record-breaking 35 points in the second quarter, and setting several other Super Bowl records. Williams, who was named the Super Bowl MVP, completing 18 of 29 passes for a Super Bowl record 340 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. He also became the first player in Super Bowl history to pass for four touchdowns in a single quarter, and four in a half. Williams is to date the only African American starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl. The 10-point deficit remains the largest deficit overcome by a Super Bowl victor. source
I have lived in DC for more than 15 years and it has been very lean years for all of the local professional teams. And the Skins are no exception. Their storied history includes five Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl trophies. But right now -- RGIII mania aside -- their winning ways are only history.
Living in DC -- my adopted hometown -- has given me insight into the biggest sports controversy of this great town, the official nickname of the Washington football team: The Redskins.
For the longest, I had no opinion. It first crossed my radar when the Washington Bullets (then owned by Abe Pollin) of the NBA changed their name to the Washington Wizards.
...in 1996, with the crime rate in D.C. at an alarming rate, Pollin announced that he was going to change the name of the team due to the 'negative connotation' associated with the word 'bullet'. source
Around that time, I remember local sports media types asking: What about a name change for the highly racially offensive Redskins name? Years have rolled by since the Wizard's name change and momentum for the Redskins to follow suit has picked up steam.
Name change is the right thing to do.
The Skins have a very loyal base and, to reiterate, a storied past. However, that's not the whole story. They have a very racist past. In fact, they were the last NFL franchise to integrate. Original owner George Preston Marshall -- and the man to name them Redskins -- used to proudly state:
"We'll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites."
He did not sign one black player until 1962 (Bobby Mitchell) and this was because of pressure by the Kennedy Administration.
In 1961, the Redskins were the only team in professional football without a black player. In fact, in the 25-year history of the franchise, no black had ever played for George Marshall. Sam Lacy, the gifted black sportswriter for the Baltimore Afro-American, called the Redskins football's "lone wolf in lily-whiteism." Their owner was "the one operator in the whole structure of major-league sports who has openly flouted his distaste for tan athletes." source
And he carried his racial hatred to the grave:
When George Preston Marshall died in 1969, he left some money to his children but directed that the bulk of his estate be used to set up a foundation in his name. He attached, however, one firm condition: that the foundation, operating out of Washington, D.C., should not direct a single dollar toward “any purpose which supports or employs the principle of racial integration in any form.” Think about that. This was not 1929 or 1949. Even in 1960 such a diktat might have been, well, “understandable” in a Southern city such as Washington then was. But 1969; “in any form.” source
Note to present owner Dan Snyder:
This is not the legacy to follow. Celebrate the greatness and richness of the Skin's past, no doubt, but transcend from the ugly racial practices from yesteryear -- this starts with an appropriate name change.