Local professional football fans are fortunate to have three teams for which to cheer based in cities just slightly more than a two-hour drive away.
Most Cumberland residents root for the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers or The Washington Football Team.
Wait, what? The Washington Football Team? For now, at least, the answer is yes.
The franchise is one of the oldest in the NFL, founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves. The team changed its name to the Redskins in 1933, and in 1937, relocated to Washington, D.C., and began a football dynasty. In addition to NFL Championship Game victories in 1937 and 1942, the Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1983, 1988 and 1992.
They were hailed by their followers, and many now are angry that the name has been dropped, off-the-chart livid over the decision, which was made under extreme pressure. Readers have informed us that they will neither watch nor attend another Washington game. Others welcome the move, believing the name is offensive to North American Indians, a racial slur based on the pigmentation of their epidermis. It dates from a time when minorities were fair game for derision.
We wonder how it survived as long as it did.
How would mascot names like the Washington Whiteys, Washington Blue-Eyed Devils, Washington White Trash, Washington Low Whites, Washington Crackers, Washington Caspers or the Washington Palefaces have been received?
Some people believe that Americans are getting soft, becoming a bunch of oversensitive liberal crybabies, while others are convinced the nation is full of hard-hearted, ultraconservative white supremacists. When it comes to race relations, we like to think that people are becoming more enlightened, more sympathetic, working harder to follow the Golden Rule and adopting an “if the shoe were on the other foot” attitude toward their neighbors.
American Indians have been pushed around by white people since European explorers first came ashore. They were slaughtered and confined, abused and marginalized. An 1869 quote attributed to U.S. Gen. Philip Sheridan sums up the mindset of the day: “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead.” They were the enemy, the bad guys.
Native American culture was crushed, nearly eradicated by the newcomers to the continent and their progeny. Government treaties weren’t worth the paper on which they were written. Generations after their wholesale persecution and relocation, these oppressed indigenous people struggle to succeed, although casinos have delivered a new level of prosperity for dozens of tribes.
Apologists can say that the former team mascot was a source of pride for Indians and that the name was a tribute to their people and way of life, but that’s a load of bison manure.
The issue goes beyond race. It permeates our lives in sneaky degrees. It is wrong to say and do anything that pokes fun at a person’s physical characteristics. Children love cartoons and Looney Tunes fans have watched and laughed for decades as Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd loop their way through TV programming. All three ridicule people with speech impediments — adults and kids who have lisps, stutter or pronounce r’s as w’s.
Should we consider banning these vintage, animated slices of Americana, to cancel that bit of time-tested pop culture? That’s open for debate. We simply cite them as an example.
But Redskins? The shedding of that controversial name is more than just another case of political correctness in the extreme.
It’s a small victory in the advancement of dignity and respect for all Americans — in this case the original Americans.