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The Washington Redskins should stop playing offense

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Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) scores a touchdown as he is hit by Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Dekoda Watson (57) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) scores a touchdown as he is hit by Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Dekoda Watson (57) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

When you hear the word “Redskins”, what comes to mind? To all my football fans, I’m guessing the Washington Redskins. Ever wonder why they have a Native American as their mascot?

Historically, redskin is known as a derogatory term for Native Americans. The color red was used to describe how different the Native Americans’ appearance were compared to their “desirable” European counterparts. Words become offensive when they are used to differentiate individuals from otherwise accepted groups. For example, the term redskin can be considered offensive when old Westerns use the word to describe “savage enemies.”

So has the derogative term redskins moved past  its inappropriate meaning over time? Clearly not according to the protesters who demonstrated outside the Texans versus Redskins game last Sunday. Protesters held up signs saying “Indians Are People Not a Mascot” and “R-word = N-word.” As a young black woman in America, seeing these signs lead me to reflect on how I would react if there were a football team named after a derogatory term towards black people. How would I react to seeing the nation cheer? Could I celebrate and hold pride in  the name of the same word that is meant to hurt my people? I would be infuriated that the owners of that football team hide such an offensive term behind a pastime that all Americans love. I would be fuming that such an offensive word was hidden so well that most would forget that the original use of the word is offensive. I too would protest the name for the lack of sensitivity that it evokes in fans.

Time Magazine states that Tom Wheeler, the Federal Communications Commission Chair, condemned the Washington Redskins’ team name but says he won’t use his power to push the team’s owner to change it. This is Wheeler’s way of saying, “This is not okay, but this isn’t any of my business.”  Not wanting to use his authoritative power to eliminate a social injustice cannot be justified morally or ethically.

As of this past August, Dan Snyder, the owner of the Redskins, lost rights to the name Redskins when the US Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s trademark registration because it was disparaging for Native Americans. The idea that Snyder was able to make money off of a word that is meant to hurt a group of people is appalling. It is even more appalling that he owned the rights to that word.

So what’s the big deal? Why hold onto that word. The pride and glory associated with a team is not its name. It’s the town they represent, the art of the game and the colors they rock that bring people together. Those are what people love about football. By keeping an offensive name, you dilute the things that make football America’s favorite past time.

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The Washington Redskins should stop playing offense