When Daniel Snyder announced on Sunday that the Washington Redskins name change was imminent. I was confused. The Washington Imminents is a rather esoteric name, but at least it is not offensive. But then it was explained to me that imminent was referring to the name change, and not the name change which cleared it up for me.
Then new name of the Washington NFL team has yet to be announced because of trademark issues. In an ironic twist, a man named Philip McCaulay has filed trademark applications on many of the possible new names for the team. He is called a “trademark squatter”. But the term “squatter” refers to a “settler with no legal title to the land occupied” which is what many Europeans did on much of Native American land, so even the term used to describe a person in a trademark fight for the new name of the team is offensive to Native Americans. So, will that term need to be changed as well?
The Redskins’ name change comes not so much from a woke awakening of owner Daniel Snyder, but from the financial pressure put on him by corporate sponsors like FedEx and Nike, and threats by the city of Washington, DC that if there is no name change, there will be no new stadium for the team. Money talks.
The country is split on this issue. Regardless of the poll, there are strong factions on either side of this issue, whether it be the general population, former Redskins players, or even Native Americans. There is not a general consensus. Some people find the Redskins’ name offensive and want it changed, while others do not.
The name was never intended nor was it ever used within the context of NFL football as a derogatory name. I have been to dozens of NFL games in our Nation’s Capital, and I have watched in amazement, and almost pride, as 80,000 fans dressed in burgundy and gold, sing in unison, “Hail to the Redskins! Hail victory! Hail to the Redskins!” If you were to remove “Redskins” from their fight song, and replace it with a racial slur or a derogatory name, it doesn’t really work. It does not make sense. Does it? So, the intent of using the name was never meant to be offensive. Nobody in their right mind, would choose a nickname that was an insult, a slur or derogatory, because by using it they would also be insulting themselves.
But we have been told that intent does not matter. That if even one person believes something you did, something you said or even a team’s nickname is offensive, then it is offensive, and you must change. That has become the rule in our society, and the rule the NFL seems to be playing by. If one is offended, then it is offensive.
Which brings up the other controversy the NFL is embroiled in, kneeling for the National Anthem and the American flag that will be sweeping the NFL if they have a season this fall. There are many citizens and military service personnel alike, who find kneeling during the National Anthem as offensive. Many military members believe it is disrespectful to their service and their sacrifice.
People who kneel claim that their intent is not to disrespect the country, the flag or any of the men and women who fight for our country. That may be true. Their intent may not be to offend, but as has been explained in the Redskin name controversy, intent does not matter. If people are offended by the name, or by something that you said or what you are doing, then it is indeed offensive, and you must change.
A high enough percentage of the citizens of the United States and those who serve in the armed forces believe that kneeling for the National Anthem is offensive, and that has been made clear to the people who kneel, so it’s up to them to change just like it was up to Daniel Snyder to change the name of the team regardless of what the intent was because some people believed it was offensive.
There are many other ways to protest police brutality that are not offensive, just as there are other names the Washington NFL team can use that are not offensive. If you do not want to offend or disrespect anyone serving our country in the military, then you should not kneel for our National Anthem.
But as we stand now, the NFL has decided to rid itself of certain things in their League that offend some people, but celebrate certain acts that offend other people. As with other parts of our society, some people in the NFL believe they have the right to offend but no one has the right to offend them. They have flipped the golden rule upside down to “do unto to others as you would not have done unto you.” And this selective use of outrage is both hypocritical and dangerous to our civil society.