Because I spent a decade living in the Washington, DC area, I find myself interested in the controversy surrounding the name of their professional football team. Washingtonians are almost as obsessed with their “Skins” as Torontonians are with the Leafs!
Some traditionalists have pointed out that, when the franchise was originally located in New England and known as the Boston Redskins, it was understood that the team name simply referred to the participants in the Boston Tea Party. Others point to the fact that many — and perhaps even a majority — of Native Americans are not offended by the term “Redskin” – especially when it is compared to an icon like that of the Cleveland Indians. And they ask, if in the spirit of political correctness, “Redskin” is eliminated today, what’s to keep “Braves,” “Chiefs,” and “Blackhawks” from facing the same fate tomorrow?
Those in favour of change (and I count myself among then) focus on the difference between intention and perception. While Dan Snyder and the previous owners of the DC franchise never intended to disparage any one, it is understandable that some Native Americans would be offended by the team’s name. Bob Costas recently observed that, if you bumped into a couple of Native Americans in a restaurant, you would never EVER say anything like, “Well, it’s nice to meet you two Redskins.”
There may, though, be an “integrative thinking solution” * worth considering: PETA has suggested keeping the name “Redskins” and changing the icon to that of a potato. I think this is a “peace in our time” solution. Just think of the marketing possibilities! If the Skins play the Lions on Thanksgiving, we can go with our “mash potato” uniforms. And when they go up against New Orleans or Memphis or any team from the South, they can sport their “fried potato” unis. And if by chance Team Washington ever made it to the Superbowl, I am sure some artist somewhere is already perfecting the “au Gratin” helmet!
* Integrative Thinking is the ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generating a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new model that contains elements of the both models, but is superior to each.