Someone in my neighborhood greeted me two weeks ago with a reprimand: “Soon, you can’t be wearing that!” He did not look to be joking.
I was wearing my Washington Redskins cap, which I’ve had for years. As a native Washingtonian now living elsewhere, I wear this hat, like any sports fan, as a reminder of my hometown and my team — something that’s usually a good icebreaker. With the Redskins’ recent announcement to retire their name and logo after media and corporate pressure, however, it seems I can’t continue wearing my old Redskins gear without appearing to make the statement that I don’t care about racism.
Reflecting on how uncomfortable I felt after hearing the jeer, it hit me: The Redskins are gone, and now so is my last shred of appreciation for the NFL.
This is no longer the game I remember from my childhood, when John Madden and Pat Summerall were in the booth. I played countless hours of Tecmo Super Bowl, and Joe Gibbs made every Redskins fan proud to have such a dedicated coach who loved God and family more than football.
Football used to be about the players and the fans. Now it has become about peddling pornographic content during Super Bowl halftime shows, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on stadiums, and cramming in more advertising minutes between plays.
Growing up in D.C. in the ’80s and ’90s as a son of Nicaraguan immigrants and playing high school football, I loved cheering for the Redskins. I never associated their name and logo with racism.
The racism argument against the team name is not even rooted in historical facts. The Max Kellermans of the world never mention the Smithsonian’s research on the origins of the Redskins name. In all the media coverage, so many have ignored Ives Goddard’s 2005 seven-month study, which concluded that native people first used the term “Red-skin” to describe themselves.
As for the logo, WUSA9 reports, it “has been an Indian chief since 1971. It was designed by Native American Walter ‘Blackie’ Wetzel … [and] is a picture of John ‘Two Guns’ White Calf, a Blackfeet Chief who also appears on the Buffalo Nickel.”
I see a problem with racism in our world. When our desire to eradicate true social ills, however, causes us to throw out all references to race, even positive ones, the fight begins to lose meaning. Who names a sports team after something they want to systematically oppress? Who could orchestrate the design of a logo with such care and still be accused of broadcasting racism? Apparently the Washington Football Team, now with its name and logo stripped of meaning.
The Dallas Cowboys are named for the history of cowboys in Texas. The San Francisco 49ers are named after the men who came to California during the gold rush of 1849. The Philadelphia 76ers honor the year the United States declared independence from Great Britain. When we name sports teams after people, it’s steeped in historical meaning and admiration. It defies logic to suggest that when naming the Redskins, the intent was to promote racism and oppression. Unfortunately, few covering this story seem to care about original meaning, history, or tradition.
I will not support whatever the Football Team from Washington, D.C., eventually becomes. As far as I’m concerned, my fandom for professional football died the day the Redskins decided to erase their name and logo.
I will always remember the Redskins as the team with the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. I will always remember the 1991 Redskins championship season, when they trounced the NFL with a 14-2 record (a team USA Today still ranks as the best Super Bowl champs of all time).
I will always remember the legacies of Sean Taylor and Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, and that Vince Lombardi chose to coach the Redskins in his final NFL season. I will always remember “We want Dallas!” and our fight song opening, “Hail to the Redskins, hail victory!”
I will always remember that Dan Snyder, Roger Goodell, corporate sponsors, and reactionary media erased the Redskins’ legacy.
There are a lot more important things in life than cheering for a professional football team. Spending Sundays at church, playing with my children, and having brunch with my wife mean more to me than the NFL ever will. So long, Redskins.