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New Names for the Washington Redskins

The push to change the Redskins’ name is getting stronger. But what to call the team? Oh, the possibilities.

Five months after their first-round playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Washington Redskins are facing their traditional off-season rivals: critics of the team’s name. Writers, activists, and scholars have argued for years (correctly) that “Redskins” is a racial slur against Native Americans. The name has been declared “derogatory” by the US Patent and Trademark Office, and opponents have sued—so far unsuccessfully—to have it changed. Now members of the DC Council are joining the fight.

Illustrations by Polygraph.

At-large council member David Grosso introduced a nonbinding resolution in early May calling on Redskins owner Dan Snyder to scrap the team’s moniker. “The name ‘Redskins’ is historically racist and derogatory,” Grosso said in a letter to Snyder. As a replacement, he suggested the Washington Redtails, a reference to the Tuskegee Airmen, a celebrated group of African-American World War II pilots.

He hasn’t heard back from Snyder, nor does he expect to. “Their level of respect for our body is probably not that high,” says Grosso, one of the only DC Council members not recently embroiled in a scandal of some sort. And although Snyder insists he won’t change the team’s name, here are some recommendations.

The Washington Half-Smokes
Brought to you by Ben’s Chili Bowl.

The Washington Filibusters
Motto: “If you can’t beat ’em, talk.”

The Washington Red Tape
Requires only a minor tweak to “Hail to the Redskins.” Opponents will fear the long lines and triplicate forms.

The Washington Lame Ducks
Not as imposing as they were four years ago, but still influential.

The Washington Super PAC-ers
Downside: Management will have to clear a roster spot for a campaign-finance lawyer. (Sorry, Reed Doughty.)

The Washington Shadow Senators
An opportunity to inspire players with a message of humility: Who needs a vote in Congress when you get to park this close to the Capitol?

The Washington Tax Dodgers
Team motto: “The only thing worse than losing is paying top marginal tax rates.”

The Washington BlackBerrys
Pursuing a goal even more ambitious than a Super Bowl championship: winning the morning.

This article appears in the June 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

  • John Staff

    I understand the sarcasm in this article. However, I submit two points to those who would say the name needs to be changed.

    1. The etymology of the term "Redskin" by Ives Goddard of the Smithsonian Institute is summarized as: A translation of a term used by Native Americans to describe and differentiate themselves from the "Whiteman" or "Blackman". Furthermore, it was used by the "Whiteman" as a nuetral and ambiguos (not derogatory or complimentary) term, following the example of Native Americans. Therefore, the argument, hundreds of year later, that the term is a pejorative or derogatory in nature, does not hold water.

    2. The USTPO can call it what it likes. Their decision does not hold up in court. This same argument went before the Trademark and Trial Appeal board in 1992 and was struck down by the District Court because:

    there was an absence of evidence that the term redskin is disparaging in the particular context of the name of the sports team;

    that the TTB did not sufficiently articulate its inferences and explain how it decided between competing pieces of evidence. In particular, the District Court was critical of the fact that the TTB ruled on the basis "of the entirety of the evidence" but did not review that evidence in any detail and made few findings of fact;

    that the petitioners' claim was barred by the doctrine of laches, which provides that a right or claim should not be enforced if the long delay in asserting it puts the respondent at an unreasonable disadvantage. In this case, the Court held that opposition to the mark should have been asserted when the mark was issued in 1967 or shortly thereafter and that the delay of twenty-five years was unreasonable.


    What a non-story this is:

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