As y’all know, we’re headed east. Not to say where in the east, other than “Queenland” (not to be confused with Real-life Queensland, Australia), but I am roughly equidistant from Washington DC and another major metropolitan area. Due to the particulars, we’re going to be more closely “tied” to DC. As far as DMA’s are concerned, we’re DC. The DC airport is closer. We know people in DC, and so on.

I tend to root for the home team, though for DC that’s going to be a problem. For baseball, I am not a big fan of the “Nationals” name and the whole don’t-call-us-the-Senators thing. But whatever, I’ll get over that.

What I am finding is that I am going to have a lot of difficulty rooting for a team called the Redskins. I don’t think I’ll be able to, to be honest.

I’m not 100% dead-set against tribal mascots. I consider it rather context-dependent. And, to be honest, one of the things I get on my soapbox about is the situation in North Dakota and the NCAA’s mishandling of the tribal name situation.

For those who don’t know, the NCAA announced a while back that it was going to start penalizing teams with “offensive” mascots. I was actually somewhat supportive of the move at the time. In the broad strokes, I still am. However, what I thought was going to be a more cooperative “Let’s not be offensive” instead became “Unless you’re Florida State, call yourself the RedHawks (or something like that) going forward.”

Instead of the exception, Florida State should have been the roadmap. The Florida State Seminoles dealt with some early objections by incorporating genuine, rather than goofy misconception – tribal aesthetics and rituals into their theme. If it weren’t for Florida State’s importance, I’m relatively convinced that none of the schools would have gotten a pass. The NCAA wanted to take a really hard line on this, but also didn’t want to go to against Florida State and so the rules were tailored and interpreted to allow Florida State to keep their mascot. (They were also tailored so that it didn’t apply to the Fighting Irish or various Spartan and Trojan teams out there.)

But instead of learning from the Florida State example of cooperation, the NCAA made the road to redemption a lot more difficult than it needed to be. North Dakota, home of the Fighting Sioux, became a case-and-point. There are two dominant Sioux Tribes in North Dakota. One approved, one objected. In my mind, the goal all along should have been to try to get cooperation to prevent mascots from going off the offensive deepend (by, for instance, going by the “Redskins”). Instead, you have Sioux suing the NCAA so that the university can keep the name and the NCAA saying “No, no, it’s offensive. Trust us. Now go away.”

The whole thing cost UND quite dearly. While North Dakota State, South Dakota, and South Dakota State all received invitations to the geographically appropriate Summit League and Missouri Valley Football Conference, North Dakota’s limbo (the coming sanctions hanging over their head) forced them over to the competitive, but geographically inappropriate, Big Sky Conference. They’ve had lawsuit after lawsuit, legislation passed and then rescinded by later legislation, and they still haven’t come up with a name yet.

I tend to view it as a trademark issue more than anything else. Which is to say that unless a university has the cooperation of a tribe going by a particular name, it’s somewhat dubious of them to go by the name of people who have a moral right to that name. UND had the approval of one of the Sioux tribe, so they should have been able to “license” that right from the tribe. And if they get offensive with what they’re doing, the tribe could then rescind that license. Fostering a cooperative relaitonship. And so on. It would be an opportunity for these schools to provide scholarships, honor traditions (on more than just their say-so), and be a learning experience.

But despite the NCAA’s mishandling of that issue… Redskins? Yeesh. And I’m not sure if it’s right to feel this way when there are at least some polls saying that tribal members themselves don’t object. But… Redskins? Even if some Indians are really unbothered by it, I just have a hard time getting comfortable with it.

Unless they change their mascot from the Indian dude to a potato. If they had a potato mascot, I’d buy their apparel.

Category: Theater

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2 Responses to A Redskin Dilemma

  1. Peter says:

    It’s only an issue because most American Indian tribes are poor (well, except for those with gambling casinos). Nobody minds Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish because the Irish aren’t poor. Nobody minds the various Vikings teams because Vikings, in the form of the descendant the Scandinavians, aren’t poor.

  2. superdestroyer says:

    DC and the surrounding area are a place where a large percentage of the population are not Redskins fans. Many are Ravens, Steelers, Giants, and Cowboy fans, depending. Since many people are from elsewhere, they bring their team loyalties with them.

    You are correct about the Indian mascots. The NCAA has let Florida State get away with things that no other school is allowed to Utah and Illinois had to make a lot of concessions even though the states are named after Indian tribes. Maybe the solution or North Dakota would be to change the name of the state to remove the name of an Indian tribe. The NCAA had to go easy on UNC-Pembroke since many of the students there were Lumbee Indians and thus, the Braves mascot was allowed to stay.

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