Nearly ten years ago, longtime Washington Bullets/Wizards owner Abe Pollin responded to several fan emails on the team's website. One fan asked Pollin why he decided in the mid-1990s to change the team's name from "Bullets" to "Wizards."
It has been awhile since I have been asked this question. Believe me when I say it was not an easy decision. I won a World Championship under the name Bullets. However, too often during the mid to late ‘90s, I would hear the word “bullets” associated with guns and violence instead of my basketball team. While the name was longstanding, I finally reached a point that I was simply tired of the association between the two. Then, my good friend, Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated in Israel. That was the final straw. It was time to change names. With regard to the name “Wizards,” we held a three-tiered contest to determine a new name. The name “Wizards” was selected by the fans and has adorned our uniforms since that time.
I bring up Pollin's comments because it was an example of an owner being proactive and aware of the impact his team's name could have on fans and the community. While I couldn't find any examples of a public outcry against the Washington basketball team because of its name, it didn't matter. The owner of the Bullets — Pollin — decided that the name was no longer appropriate and a new one was necessary.
It's a shame Daniel Snyder does not have that same kind of awareness.
Snyder is the owner of the Washington Redskins, the city's NFL team. The name of the Washington football team has been scrutinized for years.
Google "redskin define" and you will find out why. The result is simple: "offensive. An American Indian." It's not a kind term. And it's certainly not appropriate.
The Wikipedia entry for the word "redskin" provides more information:
"Redskin" is a racial descriptor for Native Americans, the origin of which is disputed. Although by some accounts not originally having negative intent, the term is now defined by dictionaries of American English as "usually offensive", "disparaging", "insulting", "taboo" and is avoided in public usage with the exception of its continued use as a name for sports teams.
While high school teams, including Cooperstown's athletic program, have dumped the nickname, Washington's NFL team has refused to lead by example and change its name. Snyder said in May that the team's name "will never change."
As a society, respect is needed. Some might call it political correctness. But I call it respect. Let's avoid racist and sexist jokes. Let's not bully or harass the vulnerable. Let's not use hateful language that might not be offensive to most, but hurts some. Let's ask ourselves, "Is this how we would want to be treated?"
In the case of the Washington Redskins, the team needs to change its name. Snyder should follow in the footsteps of Pollin and realize that the name isn't appropriate and needs to be altered. Hold a contest, change the name yourself. It doesn't matter. But it's time to retire "Redskins" once and for all.