PAINTER: Time to change Washington Redskins' name

Is the Washington Redskins nickname offensive? Some people feel it is. Some people feel it isn’t.
Oct 16, 2013

No matter, the Redskins controversy is garnering nationwide attention. Even President Obama is weighing in on the issue.

Obama said if he owned the NFL team in Washington, he would consider dropping Redskins from the team’s name. Dave Letterman, in making reference to the federal government shutdown, joked that the name Washington in itself is offensive.

Team owner Dan Snyder is vowing to keep the Redskins name. He wrote in a letter to season ticket holders: “I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name. But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means.”

Criticism of the name Redskins has been going on for years, but recently the Oneida Indian Campaign launched a drive to get Washington to change its nickname, saying that it is offensive to American Indians.

NBC sportscaster Bob Costas on Sunday night spoke out against the nickname, calling it an “insult and racial slur.”

As a boy growing up in the Pittsburgh area, I remember the Steelers often playing the Redskins and not giving much thought to the nickname. In fact, I liked the feathers on their helmets.

But times have changed and I can see the Oneida Nation’s point. The name is offensive.

The time has come to change the name. Surely, it can’t be that difficult to come up with a new nickname for the Washington team.

Some people might question other nicknames by major league teams such as the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks and MLB’s Atlanta Braves. Those names don’t degrade the American Indians.

“The name of Washington’s team is a dictionary-defined offensive racial epithet. Those other names aren’t,” Oneida representative Ray Halbritter told The Associated Press.

I give credit to the NCAA for taking a firm stance against inappropriate nicknames and putting pressure on college teams to change their nicknames if they were deemed to be degrading. St. John’s University comes to mind. The university changed its nickname to the Red Storm. They were called the Redmen.

Sometimes, the NCAA has to exert its muscles more forcefully.

 The NCAA took on the University of North Dakota, which had refused to drop the name the Fighting Sioux. University officials contended that the nickname wasn’t offensive, but a source of pride.

Wealthy North Dakota alumnus Ralph Engelstad donated $100 million to construct a hockey arena for the university. One of his conditions was that the university keep the Fighting Sioux name and Indian-head logo. The arena opened in 2001.

But Engelstad’s condition didn’t stop the NCAA from taking action. The NCAA threatened the university with sanctions if it didn’t drop the nickname.

The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education in 2009 approved a motion to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

But the controversy didn’t end then.

The state Senate entered the fray and voted in March 2011 to keep the nickname. The measure was even signed by the governor. But the law was repealed during a special session of the North Dakota Legislature in November 2011.

Finally, in 2012 the issue was put before a vote of the people. A majority of North Dakota voters chose to retire the Fighting Sioux name and its logo.

The university board in June voted to get rid of the name and logo. The university isn’t allowed to adopt a new name until 2015.

I can understand the loyalty to a team’s nickname. I didn’t like it when Southgate High School changed its nickname to the Titans after it merged with Schafer High School. We were the Southgate Sabers; not the sword, but the saber-tooth tiger. I thought that was a great nickname, one that very few other schools had.

And I still find myself sometimes calling the Eastern Michigan University athletic teams the Hurons. They changed their name to the Eagles.

I know that Dan Snyder feels that the Redskins name is steep in history, a name that has been around a long time. But, hopefully, Snyder will realize that a more appropriate nickname will go a long way in soothing the feelings of the many people who oppose the nickname.

Who knows? He might even develop some new fans.

— By Len Painter, editor emeritus





1. Of course Obama has weighed in - (a) he weighs in any time he can stick it to the white or white-hispanic guy, and (b) the chief anti-Redskins activist is not even a member of the tribe he claims to represent, is a big casino operator, and is a big Obama fundraiser

Nevertheless, rumor has it that Dan Snyder is seriously considering a name change to the Washington Redskins franchise because of all the hatred, violence, and hostility associated with their name.

From now on they will be known simply as the Redskins.


Lol. Now potatoes are going to be offended.


Nice, I thought it would be the summer tourists that would be angry.


I have no doubt that this term may offend people but with all the issues in our country (government shutdown) it would seem our focus should be on more important issues. I guess in reality just change the name so we can move on.


I'm on the same page as Vlad! Well put. LOL


I can see it now. The Washington Flush Epidermis have overpowered the Bankrupt Lions.


it's been the Washington Redskins since they have begun playing football in the 1930's. Why is it all of a sudden offensive to some people. while we are at it,then why not change the Chicago Blackhawks.


It's not all of a sudden genius. It's been offensive to the people it mocks since the early 1800's. Read a book, learn some history. The first americans have been putting up with this racist crap since the first buckleshoe hit the East Coast.

Insert your favorite racist name for some other group and see how that goes....Washington spooks? Washington dagos? Is it really that hard to understand?

The Blackhawks were a specific tribe and a raptor, not even close to being the same thing. There are many more respectful names for the same group of people that could replace Redskins, how hard would that be to do?

Wow, how does one go thru life without knowing anything about the history of their country?

retired DOC

What about the Fighting Irish and Spartans?


You people are really clueless aren't you? Is it intentional or are y'all just blissfully ignorant?


Spartans is not a derogatory term. Fighting Irish could be maybe, if you are assuming they have been drinking.


You're so much more polite than I'm able to be....especially on this topic. I'm envious of your diplomacy and consideration for dumb animals.

Dang, I just did it again.


Wife caught you didn't she?


Yup, gotta learn to quit reading the stupid stuff to her, although it does make her laugh and brighten up her day.


O.K. To prove I'm not clueless I'll change my recommended name to the "Washington Blackfeet" named after a specific tribe.


O.M.G....Hey Mr Wit, how about a tribe that actually lived on the East Coast. You know, where Washington D.C. actually is?

"The Blackfoot Confederacy or Niitsítapi (meaning "original people" is the collective name of three First Nations bands in Alberta, Canada and one Native American tribe in Montana, United States".

You love links......Here's the best link I have to the 500 nations by state. See if you can find one on this list that has a nice ring to it.

deuce liti

Why would they change it?

These people have been referred to as Indians even after it was realized this isn't India. Talk about stubborn.


True that. Better late than never maybe?


I agree with some of you the offensive word is some archaic language it must translate home of pirates, thieves or thugs.


Washington D.C. whereas the D.C. stands for District of Criminals.

I know, I've said it before, but it's still true, maybe more now than before the shutdown.


This year, that's about the only thing offensive about the Redskins.


Vlad - Homerun, everybody agrees with you...I know, now get back up and offend someone else.


here we go...lets put a soft fuzzy layer over everything so that no one is offended, mean while us American's can no longer stand for anything. what a joke. If the indian don't like, screw em' they have the right to go to a place where they are not offended. If you don't like it, you are welcome to leave at anytime. There is nothing offensive about redskins, unless you interpret it in a way to make it offensive, its only offensive if they keep losing. Oh, and obama is an idiot and so in trayvon and his parents.


LOOK RU, ANOTHER IDIOT TROLL. They must be breeding under that bridge.

"mean while us American's can no longer stand for anything"

Really? what's preventing you from standing for anything other than your fat ***? How does treating another ethnic group with the same respect that I bet you'd like to receive prevent you from living your life? You want to clarify that one? Do you miss the good old days of lynchings by moonlight? Bummed cuz you missed out on sharing your smallpox infested blankets with the indians at the local casino?

ugghh, I'm ashamed that I live in the same town as you. Hopefully I don't, but I don't want to know either way.

Truthhurts eh? the only truth that would hurt you is an assessment of your lack of IQ and your racist rants. I guess for someone who uses the N word daily for one race of people, redskins for another minority probably never even makes it onto your radar does it?

I'll bet your mom is proud of the way you turned out. Unless she's a racist slob too of course.......

Reading you makes my head hurt and that's the truth.


1. "If the indian don't like, screw em' they have the right to go to a place where they are not offended." Right- they're already here and they like it - at Dunkin Doughnuts -

2. "Do you miss the good old days of lynchings by moonlight?" Although lynching of people of color was a Democrat tactic in this country, I note that "The Trail of Tears (1838): The first Democrat President, Andrew Jackson and his successor Martin Van Buren, herded Indians into camps, tormented them, burned and pillaged their homes and forced them to relocate with minimal supplies. Thousands died along the way." (And they weren't even Washington Blackfeet)

I think you will find that neither George Washington, George Bushes, or any Republican gave smallpox blankets to the Indians (the Republican party only came into existence in opposition to democrat southern slavery in the mid 1860's) - if it happened, it was done by the British, that the Tea Party opposed before the American Revolution. Ted Cruz was probably there at Boston Harbor. . . .

Have a nice non-head-hurting evening!


What is the point of your second and third paragraphs?


I responded to both the first commenter and second commenters - is this really hard?


I guess it's not hard if I contrive things to mean that LTA was responding in any way to the 'Obama is an idiot' part of the first comment... is that what you had pieced together? You spent a lot of time typing about racist Democrats when no one said a thing about Democrats being or not being racist.


Here's Vlad's entire spiel for any and every topic that comes up here....Republican, Republican, Democrat, Democrat, tea party, Democrat, republican, republican, tea party, Democrat...onward to infinity. That's the Reader's Digest version, but you get the idea.

We could be talking about peanut butter and he'd still figure out a way to label it one or the other. He seems, for some reason I haven't been able to quite figure only relate to other humans if it is an either, or situation. A third option just rocks his world to the point of immolation.

This is why he doesn't like history either. Real life in this country for him didn't start until the birth of a two party system, before that we were just heathens, wandering aimlessly thru the woods and over the prairies.

What a sad way to deal with humanity. So afraid.


Yup - it was Republican Joe Biden who made the racist remarks about Indians; it wasn't the democrat KKK who lynched people (Bull Connor was, after all, a member of the Democratic National Committee). And no Republican gave smallpox blankets to Indians. If your "history" is right, refute what I just wrote - otherwise, huddle in ignorance with BD.


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