Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Daniel Snyder is a lot of things to a lot
Depending on your audience, Snyder may be labeled as a brilliant businessman or
perhaps the meddling, often incompetent owner of the once-proud Washington
The 'Skins, of course, were a traditional powerhouse who won three Super Bowl
titles under the brilliant stewardship of the late Jack Kent Cooke and Joe
Gibbs during the 1980s and early '90s.
Since May 1999, however, when Snyder purchased the team and Jack Kent Cooke
Stadium (now FedEx Field) for $800 million in what was the most expensive
transaction in sporting history at the time, Washington has been awash in a
sea of mediocrity, compiling a 101-123 record during Snyder's time at the
Snyder's reign with the Redskins has been defined by a haphazard approach
featuring a revolving-door of head coaches as well as a disturbing pattern of
signing high-priced free agents in favor of building through the draft, things
that have been somewhat alleviated by the hiring of Mike Shanahan as head
coach and the drafting of Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick in
Controversy, though, always seems to find Snyder. Some issues are self-
inflicted like when the billionaire had his team sue season-ticket holders who
were unable to pay during the 2008-2009 recession. He also has alienated his
own fan base by banning all signs from FedEx Field and charging exorbitant
parking fees that reach even higher for tailgaters.
In fact, anyone with any knowledge of the NFL and how it works would almost
certainly rate Snyder as one of the worst owners in the sport.
All that said, however, it's hard to call him racially insensitive for owning
one of most famous franchises in sports, which happens to be called the
Snyder recently poked a hornet's nest by going on record saying we would
"NEVER" change his team's name, something that set off several members of
Congress who evidently haven't been getting enough attention.
In a letter signed by the co-chairs of the Congressional Native American
Caucus, Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) and Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), as well as
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia's delegate in Congress and
seven others, Snyder has been accused of committing to keep using a racial
"Native Americans throughout the country consider the R-word a racial,
derogatory slur akin to the N-word among African Americans or the W-word among
Latinos," the letter states. "Such offensive epithets would no doubt draw
widespread disapproval among the NFL's fan base. Yet the national coverage of
Washington's NFL football team profits from a term that is equally disparaging
to Native Americans."
In case you wondering, yeah, you also have been singled out as a racist by
Congress for buying that Redskins jersey or hat.
To most of us, this is just another example of political correctness run amuck.
The NAACP first passed a resolution calling for the end of the use of Native
American names, images, and mascots in 1999. By 2001, the U.S. Commission on
Civil Rights released an advisory opinion calling for an end to the use of
Native American images and team names by non-Native colleges.
Some have voluntarily changed their names and mascots over the years. Stanford
had "The Stanford Indian" as it mascot from 1930 to 1972 before changing to
"The Cardinal" to honor the university's team color. Marquette pivoted from
the Warriors to the Golden Eagles in 1994 and Miami University in Ohio began
discussion regarding its former Redskins nickname way back in 1972 before
making the change to Redhawks in 1996.
Others have held firm, most notably the Iowa Hawkeyes, the Illinois Illini and
the Central Michigan Chippewas, whose nickname was placed on the NCAA's
"hostile or abusive" list but finally removed when the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal
Nation of Michigan pledged its support.
Three other schools -- the Florida State Seminoles, Mississippi College
Choctaws and University of Utah Utes -- also were granted waivers to retain
their nicknames after gaining support from those respective tribes.
Since I'm not a Native American, I don't feel comfortable telling a race of
people to ignore an issue they might feel passionate about. There is no doubt
plenty of Native Americans find these types of nicknames deeply disturbing
just as the waivers in the NCAA prove there are many who couldn't care less
and actually take pride in some of them.
What I am able to say unequivocally is that a word only has power if you let
it have power. As an Irishman, I could bend over backwards and say that Notre
Dame is bringing up the ugly stereotype of the drunken Irishman by calling
its sports teams the Fighting Irish.
Instead I chose to remain lucid and analytical and understand the university
isn't trying to offend me or anyone else. It's all about tradition and the
same holds true with the Washington Redskins.
Generally when people refer to African Americans using the N-word or Latinos
using the W-word, they are trying to be derogatory and hurtful. In this case,
you can make a strong argument that a football team turned what was created by
white people as a racially insensitive word toward Native Americans into
There isn't even a hint of animus behind Daniel Snyder's continued use of the
nickname Redskins or his team's fans in embracing it. And however it started,
the term is now a revered and celebrated part of the Beltway's culture.
Today even the worst Archie Bunker-type personality in D.C. isn't sitting
around the dinner table and throwing out "Redskins" to belittle Native
Americans. They are wondering if the 'Skins beat the Cowboys.
Native Americans certainly have the right to remain insulted and continue to
lobby for a name change. Just understand -- in football at least -- the term
"Redskins" is and will remain something positive.
The Sports Network