Washington’s slur is an easy call, but ‘Blackhawks’ has value
Now that Washington’s NFL team has announced its “retirement” of the racial slur that has been its brand name since 1933, I am tempted to gloat a little.
I feel as if I have earned it. But I didn’t have much chance to do so before new and thornier questions rose up: What about the Chicago Blackhawks?
And the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves and the Kansas City Chiefs?
Here we go again. I put up with national mockery-by-internet-meme for the past half-dozen years for supporting Native Americans who persistently called for Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, to dump the name.
I brought the world together, it seemed, in mockery of my position. One reader’s email in particular went viral in various versions — some more pornographic than others. He appeared at first to agree with my concern, but then not quite.
“Let’s ditch the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians,” he said in part. “If your shorts are in a wad because of the reference the name Redskins makes to skin color, then we need to get rid of the Cleveland Browns.
“The Carolina Panthers obviously were named to keep the memory of militant Blacks from the 60s alive. Gone. It’s offensive to us white folk.
“Catholics could be offended by the New Orleans Saints, the Los Angeles Angels or the San Diego Padres ...”
The list goes on. I, too, was amused — until I remembered that, alas, we’re still talking about a racial slur. To me, that sour note sets Washington’s team apart from other American Indian-related naming controversies.
Still, a 2016 Washington Post poll often cited by Snyder, found that 9 out of 10 Native Americans said they were not offended by the team name. But that was contradicted by a larger University of Michigan and University of California at Berkeley poll earlier this year. It found about half were offended by the Washington team’s name, 65% said they were offended by the “tomahawk chop” and 73% said they were offended by fans imitating Native American dances.