- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

New owners, new coaches, new quarterbacks, new general managers, a new stadium and even new Sneers for Snyder. How come the Washington Redskins are able to force major changes in all but the most important thing they should respectfully discard?
That fumbling football team has sacked three coaches in 13 months and still there's no name change in the decade since a group of American Indians filed suit against the team.
About the only thing that hasn't changed is the team's pitiful performance.
"They haven't been in the Super Bowl since we filed suit," said Susan Shown Harjo, lead plaintiff in the Patent Office trademark case originally filed against then-owner Jack Kent Cooke.
Well, you can't expect good to come from bad. And that name is beyond bad. It's downright offensive to American Indians.
First things first: Kick that demeaning and despicable team name to the Prince George's County curb. Then perform Chinese checkers with the place the players and other personnel. Only then will all Washingtonians have reason to cheer about their hapless hometown team.
Deserved and deafening cheers, however, were the last thing that D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz heard last week when, as chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments, she finally and forcefully pushed through a resolution "requesting" team owner Daniel Snyder to change the team's racist moniker.
What took them so long? If a body comprised of representatives of 17 jurisdictions does not address this discriminatory practice, then who should? One dissenter, Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald Connolly, in whose district the team practices, said the resolution was "incendiary." Does he think the name itself is any less inflammatory to those most hurt by it?
I cannot understand how people who do not bear the brunt of racial stereotypes not only dismiss them, but also tell us how we should feel about the epithets. Walk a mile in their moccasins then you might have license to say whether they're too tight.
"The name has always bothered me, and I'm not going to be bothered anymore. I'm going to do something about it, or at least try to do something about it," Mrs. Schwartz said yesterday.
"Great for her," Mrs. Harjo responded.
Not to worry, Carol I'll make an honorary space for you in my Whistlin' In the Wind Club. Step alongside Mrs. Harjo and well-meaning residents like David Rubenstein and Robert Gatewood, who have started one-man missions to eliminate the "R" word.
Mrs. Harjo and other American Indian scholars will inform the "unenlightened," as Mr. Gatewood calls them, that the term "Redskins" dates back to a time when red skins, or "bloody scalps," were proof of a kill for white bounty hunters.
"It's been a lonely fight and now other people are joining in, and that's great," Mrs. Harjo said.
The insensitive argue that Washington fans are not upset about the nickname. Leave it to the fans and Daniel Snyder will be looking for another stadium in which to sink his money.
Tell the truth. If that football team were called the "D.C. Darkies," do you think there would even be any debate about changing the name? Over the dead bodies of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Cornel West, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and a whole host of capital city residents.
"If we took a poll on lawn jockeys, they'd still be on lawns instead of confined to museums and antique shops," Mrs. Harjo said. "That's why we went to court. We couldn't rely on people to do the right thing."
But there are people who are trying to do the right thing Mrs. Schwartz, COG and the Washington Interfaith Council of Church, for starters.
Mr. Rubenstein, of Thoughtful Action, a nonprofit management consultant firm that works with Freddie Mac grantees, is also trying. In October, shortly after the September 11 attacks, Mr. Rubenstein decided that his 44th birthday present to himself would be to take up the name-change cause. He sent e-mails to 1,000 friends and solicited their support.
His e-mail was forwarded to Mrs. Harjo. During Mr. Rubenstein's research, he discovered several Web sites devoted to the name-change cause, including one established by Robert Gatewood, president of Afamerica, a marketing and communications firm at changethename@afamerica.com."
"It's bad enough that our country nearly exterminated an entire race of people, but it is a national disgrace that, for our amusement and enrichment, 'we walk on the graves of the dead' and demoralize their descendants by mocking them through derogatory mascots and nicknames," he writes.
The Washington football team's name "will" change, its critics say. "It's not if, but when," Mrs. Harjo has decided.
"We're going to win this fight. We can't accept things that are hurtful to others," says Mr. Rubenstein.
All I know is that the only thing we can ever count on is change. If the team can change coaches and owners and stadiums and players willy-nilly, it can change a bad name and a bad image.

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