I grew up in Woodbridge Virginia, 25 miles south of Washington D.C. I inherited from my father a love of football and especially the Washington Redskins. As a teenager my bedroom was filled with Redskins posters, bedsheets, and clothes. I knew that the term referred to American Indians but I didn’t understand the racism.
To be fair Washington D.C. has a long history of racism. Until 1850 slaves were bought and sold on the National Mall.
The Redskins began in 1932 in Boston as the Boston Braves. The next year their owner George Preston Marshall changed the names to Redskins and moved the team to Washington D.C. in 1937.
Mr. Marshall envisioned his team as wholly white and refused to sign a player who was African American. By 1962 the Redskins were the only NFL team with no black players. Only when he was threatened did he sign Bobby Mitchell (1935-2020).
But integrating the team didn’t entirely eliminate racism. Native Americans have always found “Redskins” to be racist. George Preston Marshall and successive owners can be given a bye as most of us didn’t recognize the racism in the word Redskins. But in 1999 Dan Snyder purchased the Redskins. Soon after that he began to hear about how offensive Native Americans felt about the word Redskins. He responded by refusing to change the name.
It’s changed in the last week. FEDEX owns the rights to the Redskins stadium and they are pushing to change the name. Other sponsors have done the same.
I have to confess that I’ve had a hard time watching football because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy but I still support changing the name of the Washington Redskins.