As anyone who watched Monday Night Football last night could see, the Washington Redskins are a garbage football team. Some are surprised at just how garbage they are, considering they made the playoffs last season and are quarterbacked by the electric Robert Griffin III, but the truth is that “RGIII” led the team on a seven-game winning streak to close out the regular season against something less than a tough schedule before tearing his ACL in the playoffs.
Maybe they weren’t as good as anyone thought. Maybe RGIII isn’t as good as everyone thought. Or maybe he’s still recovering from his injury; many who have suffered ACL tears don’t feel “back to normal” for a full year after surgery. Griffin missed zero official games (he sat out the preseason).
So maybe the Redskins are garbage because their quarterback isn’t at a hundred percent, or maybe they were just always garbage. Either way, Griffin and his head coach, Mike Shanahan, have been under fire.
The franchise itself is under fire for a different reason: its name. If you follow sports at all, you’ve heard the controversy over whether or not a name that also serves as a derogatory term for Native Americans has any place in sports. You’ve heard the arguments against changing the name: there’s a long franchise tradition, and people aren’t offended by it, so why change it? You’ve also heard the arguments in favor of a change: people are offended, and what other racial slur would make for an acceptable team name?
I haven’t really picked a side in this debate because it’s really not my place. I see why it’s an offensive nickname to many, and I also understand that many, even in the Native American community, aren’t offended by it. I know it’s been the team’s name for a long, long time, and the current era of “political correctness,” as my father would call it, kind of makes me roll my eyes. I also know that just because things have been a certain way for a while doesn’t mean they are right or immune to change.
But last night, I think I made up my mind. The team honored a few Navajo Code Talkers on the field at halftime. This was a nice gesture for an NFL team; these men are heroes who risked their lives to fight for our country (if you don’t know their story, read up on it; in essence, they used a code based on their native Navajo language to transmit messages during World War II that was indecipherable to anyone who didn’t speak Navajo, which was like 99.999% of the world’s population at that time).
And for 31 of the league’s franchises, it would be simply that. But for this team, in this climate, to do it just seemed disingenuous. It just reeked of “hey, look at us, we love Native Americans!” Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but it was either a blatant middle finger to everyone promoting a name change, or at best, a sign of an organization completely oblivious to anything going on around it; either way, it rubbed me the wrong way.
I don’t feel very strongly about it, but maybe changing the name of the team is just an idea whose time has come. Things are different now than they were in 1933, and while the ubiquity of political correctness is often something that bugs me, maybe this time it’s just the right thing to do.