Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor
Imagine a world in which a team wears a jersey that says the “n-word,” the “r-word” or even the “g-word.” A slur is a slur; there is no exception to the rule.
Daniel Snyder, the owner of Washington D.C.’s NFL franchise, would have you believe there is a difference and that his team’s name is not offensive. The team’s name refers to the color of Native Americans’ skin. A slang word that references the color of an ethnic group’s skin is an inherently derogatory term.
What makes Snyder socially ignorant is not how well or bad his football team plays. He is to blame here because he refuses to change his team’s name. He refuses, despite ongoing outcry from the Native American population.
The shocking part is that he refuses to do so even after the U.S. Patent and Trademark office declined to renew the trademark on the Washington team’s name on June 18. Without a patent, individuals can make jerseys shirts and hats with the team’s logo and name and not be sued for it, which means they can sell these items at a lower price than the team does, literally taking money out of Snyder’s pocket.
The backlash from the sports media community has been louder this year than ever before, but we who report on sports are not blameless in this situation. This topic was usually only addressed by sports media when news was slow and we needed a hot button topic to talk about. We only discussed this issue when it was convenient and refused to take any real action to change it. That is why from this point forward I will follow the example set by The Washington City Paper and refuse to refer to this team by a racist, demeaning and derogatory name.
Does Snyder care at all that people vehemently object to his team’s name? No.
In an open letter to season ticket holders in October 2013, he said he would “NEVER” change the name.
“I’ve listened carefully to the commentary and perspective on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name,” Synder wrote. “But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means … for all of us in the extended Washington [team name] family.”
He most recently told The Washington Post on Aug. 4 that the team name connotes “respect and pride,” that he has visited several different tribes in different states, that those expressing concern are only looking for “clicks,” and that politicians are having “fun with our football team’s name.”
I am a Mexican-American male so my voice means little when it comes to the rights of Native Americans in the U.S. today. Here is what the National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation have to say in response to the more recent Snyder comments:
“Washington team owner Daniel Snyder’s comments are proof that he is living in a bigoted billionaire bubble. For him to claim that a racial slur is ‘fun’ is grotesque. For him to say that opposition to that slur is only from ‘people who need [internet] clicks’ adds insult to injury, considering the fact that groups representing hundreds of thousands of people of color are calling on him to change his team’s name.”
“There is nothing ‘fun’ about his desire to continue promoting, marketing and profiting from a term screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands. Mr. Snyder would know there’s nothing ‘fun’ about this had he not refused to meet with the scores of Native American groups who are urging him to change the mascot and stop mocking their culture.”
Are Synder and his football team the only culprits? Of course not. The Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks and Atlanta Braves are among the most notable offenders. The most important thing is that change is discussed and brought to the public’s attention and eventually enacted. If the NFL franchise changed their name many of the other organizations would likely follow suit.