Disclaimer: The following article is the opinion of the writer and not necessarily that of Fifty Gut or its contributors.
Have you ever wondered why there's so many black Dallas Cowboys fans in the Washington, D.C. area? Confusing proximity aside, the root for many generations stems back to George Preston Marshall. You see Marshall, the owner of the Redskins for their first 37 years in Boston and later D.C., had this thing about black players: he didn't like them. This was not a dislike in the "man, I really don't like Ryan Grant getting snaps over Josh Doctson" sense -- it was good ol' fashioned, evil and ignorant at its core, racism. Not surprisingly, Washington was the last team in the entire league to integrate. It took until September 20th, 1962, for future Hall of Famer, Bobby Mitchell to take the field in the burgundy and gold. The only reason? Then-Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy--yes, RFK like the stadium--threatened Marshall that his team would be prohibited from playing in the city without integration. By that time, many people of color were completely tuned out and focused on a southern team that did allow black players immediately: the Cowboys.
Whenever engaging in a heated debate, it's often useful to take inventory of who your allies are. For example, let's say you were inclined to think "I don't want Washington to change their nickname," only to find out your loudest ally is the same weasel who owns a radio station that covers the team, attempts to sue anyone who dares besmirch his name, ACTUALLY sues season ticketholders despite a "decades long" waiting list and runs out of town just about every competent and productive football mind the team has employed. Is that someone you want in your corner?
John Henry owns the Boston Red Sox, a team with a bit of time-honored tradition, you might say. The street that Fenway Park is located on is named Yawkey Way for Thomas Yawkey, the former owner of the team. Yawkey was a George Preston Marshall-type that believed black players had no place on his team as well. The Sawx were the last MLB team to integrate, over a decade after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Still, in the American normalcy of just naming things after bad people for no other reason than they were around for a long time, Boston honored Yawkey with his own street. John Henry is not beholden to a traditional name of a racist and has come up with a much better name he'd like the city to consider: David Ortiz Way. The "but, it's been that way forever!" crowd will have to take the L.
D.C. United. Nationals. Wizards. Capitals. Mystics. Let's face facts: the sports names in this city are already dumb. Half of them sound like political parties, the basketball names sound like Quidditch teams and the Redskins? Listen: IT'S A NICKNAME. It does not affect the product on the field, or the history of the franchise (which as we've discussed, ain't the prettiest), or the championships won or the players who have come and gone. It is quite literally a racist epithet. That's it. There is no profound or esoteric reasoning to be beholden to a name rooted in hate and derision. Yet...
With the harrowing events of Charlottesville still fresh in the country's mind, it's hard not to draw similarities between acknowledging history, learning and growing from it and the celebration and deifying of racists whose causes failed, yet were still memorialized. Confederate statues represent the honoring of traitors to the Union and the denial of freedom for millions. The "Redskins" nickname represents the celebration of a racist term, for a people nearly made extinct by European immigrants who later became Americans. When people exclaim, "it's time to change the name," it is not because they're some bleeding-heart, libtard, snowflake...it's because they're not an asshole.
In today's hyper-communicative world, it takes a lot for one of my best friends, that I speak to daily, to say something that genuinely catches me off guard. But when my boy Keith told me that he will not use the name "Redskins" in front of his five year old daughter, I was taken aback. Problematic nicknames and phrases generally flow pretty freely in our presence, so it struck me as odd that he drew the line in this space. "I just cringed at the thought of her using a racial slur in her cheers for the team," he confided in me. If something in your sports lexicon, aside from some friendly heckling, cannot be repeated by a child, maybe it shouldn't be repeated by adults, either.
I still say "Skins." I try not to. I use the same excuses old racists and bigots use, such as "I've just always talked this way," as if sounding like Clint Eastwood from Gran Turino is acceptable behavior. But God is working on all of us and I'm ambling my way to full deletion from my vocabulary. For now, when I say "Skins," I'm referring to "orange skins," like our president. Or "potato skins," like the contributing factor to my dad bod. Or "foreskins," like...you get the idea. Just know: there's no shame in finding the blame, changing the name and continuing the game.