Just call that team ‘The’

sports@macon.comJune 23, 2014 

Redskins Name Football

FILE - In this June 17, 2014, file photo, Washington Redskins helmets sit on the field during an NFL football minicamp in Ashburn, Va. The U.S. Patent Office ruled Wednesday, June 18, 2014, that the Washington Redskins nickname is “disparaging of Native Americans” and that the team’s federal trademarks for the name must be canceled. The ruling comes after a campaign to change the name has gained momentum over the past year.


The pressure continues to mount on Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the team’s nickname.

Last week, the U.S. Patent Office announced that the trademark covering the nickname “Redskins” is being canceled because the name is disparaging of Native Americans. The trademark cancellation means the team might have a harder time protecting its nickname and logo if other people want to use them without permission.

Snyder has vowed to never change the team nickname, but this could have an impact on other teams in the NFL since they share revenue from merchandise sales. From April 1, 2012, until March 31, 2013, more Redskins jerseys of quarterback Robert Griffin III were sold than any other jersey in league history.

I am certain that Snyder is concerned that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, says he won’t attend anymore Washington Redskins games until the team changes its nickname. I wonder if Reid ever paid for a ticket to attend one of the games. I am sure he will be missed.

The NCAA, the ruler of college sports, has already been down the name game road. In 2005, the organization ruled that college teams cannot use any words that are associated with Native Americans without an agreement from a tribal government, and the NCAA called on 31 schools to do a self-evaluation to determine if they had potential hostile or abusive names, mascots or images. Nineteen schools were cited, and failure to make changes would have resulted in a ban on hosting tournaments. Since that time, all colleges using the nickname Indians have changed, leaving just a limited number of teams with approved nicknames related to local tribes.

A number of colleges were proactive on the issue prior to the NCAA edict. Stanford changed from Indians to Cardinal (a tree) in 1972. Syracuse, which changed from the Orangemen to the gender-neutral Orange in 2004, retired the “Saltine Warrior” mascot, a mascot with Native American influences, in 1978. St. John’s dropped Redmen in favor of the Red Storm in 1994, as did Marquette, which changed from Warriors to Golden Eagles the same year, and Miami-Ohio made the change from Redskins to the RedHawks in 1997.

North Dakota has been without a nickname since 2012 when the school dropped its longstanding “Fighting Sioux” nickname. The school is scheduled to unveil a new nickname at the start of the 2015-16 academic year.

Illinois, still known as the Fighting Illini, dropped its Native American mascot, Chief Illiniwek, which was adopted well after the school adopted the “Fighting Illini” as a World War I tribute.

Florida State (Seminoles), Western Michigan (Chippewas) and Utah (Utes) maintain their historic Native American nicknames with the blessing of the named tribes.

In the past 25 years, 28 high schools in 18 states have dropped the nickname Redskins, but there are still two in Georgia. Bryan County and Social Circle both have that moniker. I don’t figure Reid will be attending any of their games this fall.

All this conversation about nicknames takes me back to the late 1960s, when the University of Georgia dropped “Dixie” from “The Dixie Redcoat Band.” That’s when the Bulldogs’ ever-colorful assistant coach, Erk Russell, got in the picture. He advocated also of getting rid of the word Redcoat because it implied British Imperialism, so the name should be changed to “The Band.” Then it was discovered that a band of roving ruffians attacked, pillaged and murdered a local farm family, making “band” offensive to several neighbors. So Erk surmised that the only thing left to call The Original Dixie Redcoat Band was “The.”

You can apply Russell’s logic to The Washington Redskins. We all understand the offensive nature of the Redskins, and that, most people would agree in a political sense, goes for Washington, as well. So if we eliminate both, the NFL franchise in the nation’s capital becomes “The.”

Personally, I have always found the Washington Redskins to be offensive. For I am a Dallas Cowboys fan.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com.

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