SPORTSDOC-- On the warpath: It's time to banish 'Redskins'
The Inuits are rumoured to have a hundred words for snow.
Here on the mainland we have at least that many words for "Holy crap, I didn't say that." If someone in the media or politics even brushes up against "racially sensitive" (formerly known as "racist"– too offensive) dialogue, he or she immediately repudiates it, not to mention rejects, renounces, and whatever other synonym applies.
It's a pretty effective smokescreen for ignoring real issues.
Case in point: who's not aware of the recent New Yorker satirizing Barack Obama as a Muslim terrorist? It's been repudiated from sea to shining sea. Portraying anyone as a terrorist, even ironically, is unacceptable. It's easy to repudiate.
Besides, there's no money in it.
At the same time Obama and the mainstream media scrambled to preempt a Muslim backlash, a federal judge ruled that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board failed to gather enough evidence to prove the Washington Redskins' logos are offensive.
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly referred to her 2003 ruling that cited the "economic hardship" the Redskins would face if the marks were canceled. Since then, the plaintiffs haven't been able to disprove the team's claim that it would lose a lot of revenue if thy lose the trademarks.
There's no way the team wouldn't lose a ton of money if they had to change trademarks, but since when does money render a racial epithet an inoffensive tribute?
Since 1967, I guess. That's when the first "Redskins" trademark was registered. The judge ruled that action should have been taken then, not in the 1980s when the lawsuit was initiated. I guess it doesn't matter that the plaintiff, Mateo Romero, a Conchiti Pueblo from New Mexico, was one year old in 1967.
I guess it doesn't matter that in the 1960s Native Americans were battling the Indian Health Service's policy of forced sterilization. Or that Congress was still forcibly relocating Indians from reservations to cities. Or that only a handful of tribes were federally recognized with little to no legal standing in U.S. courts.
Can you imagine a Native American battling the NFL in 1967? In 1974? In 1989? Can you imagine a tribe with no water, no land, and no money mounting a successful lawsuit against the Washington Redskins?
Even today, when several tribes have managed to make money, can you imagine they should direct it from scholarship or medical programs to prove the term "Redskin" is offensive?
How, when we are so practiced at repudiating, can anyone justify the Washington Redskins?
Most people think the term "Redskin" originated from Native American skin color. While that's the most common understanding of the etymology of the word, some sources claim that frontiersmen and others earned a bounty for every Native American they skinned. "Redskin" might be considered a ghastly product name as well as a slur.
And even if "Redskin" were only a slur, is that less offensive than a term for human pelts? Would the Washington Dirt-Worshippers be okay? What about the Cleveland Featherheads? The Atlanta Hatchet-Packers?
Do you think Judge Kollar-Kotelly would have been so quick to cite revenue if the team were the Washington Jemimas?
Of course not.
The only reason Judge K-K can get away with her decision is that she doesn't see Native Americans at the grocery store or the dry cleaner. She doesn't have to answer to them and neither do the Washington Redskins. I doubt Native dollars account for much of their profits. The government's termination of "terminate and relocation" did the trick: Americans don't have to look at the poor Indians anymore.
No other Americans have to carry a government issued card proving their race. No other Americans get their water from a community pump. No other Americans have to abide the bastardization of their image and culture on jerseys and caps they can't afford to buy.
As long as Native Americans aren't on equal footing with the rest of America, "Redskins" are going to be plastered on t-shirts and Fatheads. It's too bad there weren't any turbans around when we were making headdresses.