Changing the Name of the Washington Redskins

by Jamison Koehler on April 29, 2011
U.S. Capitol Building


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?

10 Comments on “Changing the Name of the Washington Redskins

  1. The easily offended should probably not read this comment.

    Oh, come on. “’Redskin’ is the most offensive term you could possibly use to describe a Native American.” That’s just silly. I can think, right off the top of my head, of half a dozen terms that are significantly more offensive.

    I get the purpose of hyperbole, but Blackhorse is just inviting some wiseass (moi?) to suggest renaming the team the Washington Injuns? Prairie/Swamp/Timber Niggers? Wagon Burners? Scalpers?

    Blackhorse would think all of those were improvements, right?

  2. Okay then. So maybe a slight exaggeration on the part of Ms. Blackhorse. But you don’t seem to be suggesting that the term is not offensive at all. So why keep it? Dan Snyder should bite the wizard — er, bullet — now. In 5 years, apart from a few die-hard complainers, no one will ever remember or care that the team once had a different name.

  3. I second Gamso’s “oh, come on.”

    And I don’t get why Amanda Blackhorse (whose name might be deemed racist by white horses everywhere) doesn’t consider it flattering to be a mascot.

    I’d be truly honored if a sports team called themselves the Bald Jews.

  4. Hello Gurwitz. We can always count on you for a good chuckle.

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  6. I should add (not that it’s particularly relevant), that the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the conviction of folks who burned Chief Wahoo and Little Black Sambo in effigy in a protest of the Cleveland Indians and their mascot (Chief Wahoo) at opening day of the 1998 baseball season.

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  8. For you to say that no one will care in 5 years that the Redskins change their name is plainly incorrect. And for you to cite the Bullets in support is even more ludicrous. Wizards fans long for a change to the old name, and many predict it will happen in the next two years.

  9. My advice to any Wizards’ fan still longing for a return to the old name after all these years: Time to move on.

  10. Pingback: We Should Re-Name D.C.'s Football Team | Koehler Law

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