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Change is OK, Dan Snyder.
To learn and to grow and to acknowledge that while some things may have been acceptable decades ago, they just aren’t anymore. It’s called personal evolution. It’s called, for many of us, being a good citizen.
There were a lot of things that happened in 1933 that don’t happen now — neighborhoods, schools and sports were kept segregated by law, there were only 48 states, women weren’t allowed to serve on juries, heck, prohibition didn’t end in the United States until December 1933.
And in ’33, George Preston Marshall, who was a bigot until the day he died, chose to change the name of his Washington football team from the Braves to the R--skins.
It’s time to rename the franchise, Dan. In truth, it’s long since been time, but seeing as you fought the change for years, you need to let it go. There’s no better time than the present. Assuming you’re not floating somewhere in the Mediterranean in your $100 million yacht, look around the U.S. a little bit. There’s change happening — a reckoning. Major corporations, and state and local entities are finally seeing the light: the Black mammy stereotype is gone from pancake syrup; Confederate statues are being taken down, whether by force or with some care; municipal budgets are addressing real areas of need; pretty much all Americans know what Juneteenth is now.
It’s your turn.
The old stories that you have trotted out don’t hold water: an interview Marshall did with the Associated Press after the 1933 name change has long since been unearthed, with Marshall saying his decision to change the name had nothing to do with the team having four Native players and a coach, William “Lone Star” Dietz, who said he was Sioux but research has shown almost certainly was not.
The name is a slur. It’s offensive to many. A “redskin” is a trophy of war, the scalped head of a human being, part of the genocide of Native Americans, when bounties were put on them by state governments. It’s wretched, part of a past that can’t be changed, a wretched past that you to this point insist on keeping alive.
More and more people won’t use it in print or say it aloud, including Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and current broadcaster Tony Dungy. States have banned schools from using it, other individual schools have moved on from it.
And yet you persist, because — well, why, exactly?
Since you do own an NFL team and NFL team owners seem to be driven by money more than anything else, perhaps the revelation that there will be no new facility at the old RFK Stadium site until you change the name will sway you. According to the Washington Post, Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva, who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, which oversees the Department of the Interior and National Parks Service, said the team’s “racist nickname” and ideas of how to honor the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy, for whom the stadium is named and who championed social justice and inclusion, mean any discussion of the site for a new stadium is a “non starter” with the current team name.
“There is no way to justify it,” Grijalva said of the name. “You either step into this century or you don’t. It’s up to the owner of the team to do that.”
Grijalva is supported by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents D.C. in Congress, and D.C. deputy mayor
Not many of us would want to be so closely aligned with Marshall, but that staunch segregationist wouldn’t integrate Washington’s roster until he was forced to by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and Kennedy, who was Attorney General. RFK Stadium, located in Washington D.C., was built by the federal government and opened in 1961, with Washington agreeing to a 30-year lease on the facility.
Udall and Kennedy gave Marshall an ultimatum not long after: add Black players to the team or lose the stadium lease. Marshall reluctantly caved.
Adding more pressure this week, investors worth over $600 billion asked major brands like FedEx, PepsiCo and Nike to end their relationships with the team because of the name, saying it goes against those brands’ stated commitment to diversity and inclusion. FedEx on Thursday formally asked the team to change its name.
FedEx Field, where Washington plays now, is in Landover, Maryland, located only about 8 miles east of RFK, but not convenient to get to by public transportation. In recent years the team’s struggles have meant large swaths of empty seats.
And on Friday morning, the world finally heard from Snyder and his organization, who announced they’d be conducting a “thorough review” and have been talking to the league for weeks about it.
“This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community is proud to represent on and off the field,” Snyder said.
There shouldn’t have to be money in it to change the name, but there probably is: new stadiums almost always bring new revenue, in the form of personal seat licenses and suite sales and companies paying a premium to put their names on any available surface.
And there’s more profit to be had in merchandising. A new name and logo would mean millions in sales of new jerseys, T-shirts, beer koozies, license plate frames, key chains and the hundreds of other licensed items people buy.
It really takes all of this for you to do the right thing?
Doing the right thing is never wrong. It would have been better to have changed the name a decade ago, or even five years ago, but there’s no shame in admitting now that the name is offensive and finally changing it.
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