- - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The recent trademark ruling against the Washington Redskins may prove to be a tipping point. If the team is ultimately shamed into changing its name, however, I contend this would not represent a milestone in tolerance, but would instead signal continued immaturity in our definition of what tolerance really means.

In the late 1800s, a town in Colorado was given the name Cripple Creek. I use a wheelchair and find the word “cripple” cringeworthy. A municipality could never select such a name today, but I recognize the town chose the name in a different era, and I thus give it no mind. The same can be said of organizations such as the NAACP and the United Negro College Fund. Like the Redskins, these organizations were honorably named, just in a different age with different sensibilities. We have therefore implicitly granted them a measure of tolerance and ethical grandfathering regarding their names, which time has passed by.

The Redskins deserve the same consideration. The current debate over the name does indeed center on the issue of caricature, but I suggest that the most important caricature being tested is that of our society’s notion of what tolerance truly means. It appears we may fail this test, and that is too bad. Badgering the Redskins football team to change its name would represent not a milestone in tolerance, but one of maturity deferred.

GREGORY SIMS

Amman, Jordan