Redskins Nickname Change More Than a Brand Issue

by Gregg on May 11, 2013

This is probably going to make some people mad, but here goes.

The Washington Redskins need to change their team nickname to something less offensive.

I know that change would be unpopular with Washington’s fans. I know it would be really expensive. I know team owner Daniel Snyder has vowed to “NEVER” (his caps, not mine) change the nickname.

But it needs to go. It’s morally questionable to identify your silly sports team’s nickname with an entire people (which, by the way, suffered tremendously when Europeans arrived in the New World, and still do today in many ways).

But it’s dead wrong to call out the color of that people’s skin … AND use that image in the team logo. I personally think less of the Redskins and its brand because of it. That’s also why I’m choosing not to include an image of that logo in this post. Go a Google search if you don’t know what it looks like.

The franchise has been known as the Redskins since 1933 when it was based in Boston. Since then, it’s won five National Football League championships, including three Super Bowls, and up until the early 1990s had been year in and year out one of the most competitive teams in the NFL.

Since Snyder bought the team in 1999, Washington has had just four winning seasons and no Super Bowl appearances – so winning and championships clearly aren’t core to the brand. So Snyder has to fall back on the “tradition” of the Redskins.

“We will never change the name of the team,” Snyder said in an article posted on ESPN’s website this week. “As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season.”

Here’s how I interpret that statement: Whatever the Redskins brand stands for is more important than the people it purports to represent, and I’m not willing to engage in meaningful discussion on this topic. So there.

Too harsh? I think not. Consider Snyder’s parting statement in that same article.

“We’ll never change the name,” he said. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

He may not agree that the term Redskins is morally offensive, but as a billionaire businessman, I would guess he understands the power a brand can have and the force for influence it can be. People associate with brands they cherish. Clearly, Washington’s fans have a deep love of what the team represents.

But what would it say to those fans – and to the rest of the NFL, and Native Americans – if he took the lead in assigning a new nickname to that tradition? Wouldn’t that send the message that we need to move on as a society toward treating everyone with respect? With the right on- and off-field personnel moves, it could rebrand the franchise as a winner.

Maybe this is the real litmus test: At an average Washington home game, of the 85,000 fans that attend, how many are Native American?

A name change won’t happen anytime soon, of course. But it should. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo cartoon logo. And maybe the Atlanta Braves tomahawk.

Let’s do this right.

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