U.S. Capitol Building

Changing the Name of the Washington Redskins

Jamison KoehlerSports


D.C. Fire Department Chief Kenneth Ellerbe created a minor controversy recently when he proposed changing the name of his department to Fire Emergency Medical Services (FEMS).  Ellerbe suggested that, since the department also provides emergency care for the sick and injured, the new name would more accurately describe the department’s functions. In addition to causing some confusion, the major problem with the proposal is that it would cost each firefighter $300 to $400 to change the insignia on their gear.

On the Kojo Nnamdi Show on NPR this afternoon, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier was asked why her department is not called the D.C Police Department. Because it has always been called the Metropolitan Police Department, she responded. For 150 years.  Why would you change it now?

If we wanted to change any name associated with the city, our first target should be the name of our football team.  I love the team as much as anyone. But the tradition has very little to do with the name itself.  Why stick with something so offensive?

According to Amanda Blackhorse, lead petitioner on a lawsuit seeking to force the change of the name, “Redskin” is the most offensive term you could possibly use to describe a Native American. Says Blackhorse:  “Native peoples don’t have a sense of belonging in this country.  Names like this, making us exist as mascots and symbols, make it worse.”

In 1995, Abe Pollin changed the name of our basketball team to the Washington Wizards due to discomfort over the homicide rate in the city.  Who remembers or cares that the team was once known as the Washington Bullets?