Tim Graham: Done with ‘Redskins’
blog by Ben Kirst • June 10, 2013 @ 2:19pm
Let no one accuse Buffalo News sportswriter Tim Graham of being wishy-washy: in a post entitled ‘I don’t need Daniel Snyder’s, NFL’s permission to stop saying R-word’ on BuffaloNews.com today, the former ESPN.com blogger and Buffalo Sabres beat writer explained his decision to stop referring to the National Football League’s Washington Redskins as such.
“Beyond the period at the end of this sentence, I intend never to use the word redskin again,” Graham wrote. “I say ‘intend’ instead of ‘vow’ because I very well could slip up and accidentally say it again in casual conversation or during an interview. For any sports fan, the word simply falls from the lips without thought. And that’s the problem with uttering a racial slur so cavalierly over the years: We don’t think about the R-word’s meaning anymore. We must not take for granted anything so harmful to other people.”
The Redskins’ name—which allegedly dates back to the mid-1930s and was bestowed as a tribute to head coach William Henry Dietz, who claimed to be of Sioux ancestry—has been a subject of national debate for at least the past 20 years, including a protest at Super Bowl XXVI in Minnesota when Washington played the Buffalo Bills.
The issue flared up again in May when Redskins owner Daniel Snyder—whose team is facing a potential loss of protection of its federal trademarks because United States law is not supposed to apply to racial slurs—was asked by USA Today if the team will ever change its name.
“We will never change the name of the team,” Snyder told USA TODAY Sports this week. “As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season.”
What if his football team loses an ongoing federal trademark lawsuit? Would he consider changing it then?
“We’ll never change the name,” he said. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
The team also presented Stephen Dodson, a Native American chief, to defend the name publicly:
In an excellent article for the New Yorker, Ian Crouch broke down the history, etymology and other sticky issues around the controversy. Crouch noted that some D.C.-area journalists and even the city’s mayor try to avoid using the word ‘Redskins.’
Washington, D.C. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton has called on Snyder to change the name. Ten members of Congress, including the leaders of the Congressional Native American Caucus, sent Snyder a letter asking him to change the name. In The Atlantic, writer Patrick Hruby noted that the term fails the Full Room Test—“would you walk into a room full of Native Americans and yell, ‘Wassup, Redskins?’ Of course not. And that makes it wrong—wrong and embarrassing, really—as a team nickname.”
Graham, for his part, is simply done with the argument. He’s not going to use the word. His discussion with Seneca Holdings marketing and communications specialist Samantha Nephew, interlaced throughout his post, is particularly poignant.
“It’s a matter of respect,” Nephew said. “I wouldn’t call anybody whatever racially derogatory term there is for them even if I don’t understand why it’s offensive. Why would I do that? I’m not in the business of offending people.”
I won’t speak for anybody else, but neither am I.