Home Social Issues Kaine, Warner Don’t Sign Letter Asking Redskins to Change Racist Name

Kaine, Warner Don’t Sign Letter Asking Redskins to Change Racist Name

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Half the Senate has signed a letter urging the NFL to pressure the Washington Redskins to change its racist nickname. Conspicuous by their absence were Virginia’s two Democratic senators:

Fifty members of the Senate have signed a letter to the N.F.L. to urge its leadership to press the Washington Redskins to change the team name in the aftermath of tough sanctions against the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers for racially charged comments. […]

“The N.F.L. can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” said the letter, which was circulated by Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, and endorsed by Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, the majority leader. “We urge the N.F.L. to formally support a name change for the Washington football team.” […]

All but five Senate Democrats – Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas – signed the letter. It was not circulated among Republicans.

Of course “Redskins” is racist.  

George Marshall, the owner who created the mascot, was one of the most notorious racists in all of sports who only signed a black player after being threatened by Stewart Udall and Bobby Kennedy. Just because it’s been the racist nickname for generations and doesn’t make it any less racist.

And current bumbling billionaire owner Daniel Snyder’s comically inept attempts at a defense show how thin the case in favor of the nickname remains. If he had a smart defense, he wouldn’t have to hire a fake chief to defend it or create a Native American foundation with a CEO who has a history of swindling Native Americans.

The Washington Wizards make people in the DC area assume that any replacement mascot must be generic and stupid. But done right, there’s no reason the mascot can’t be vastly improved. There’s nothing that ties the current mascot to anything about the DC area, other than “it’s the one our racist owner gave us a long time ago.”

My alma mater, Syracuse Orangemen, changed its mascot from the Saltine Warrior after complaints decades ago that it was racist. The result? Otto the Orange, one of the most unique and beloved mascots in college sports.  Call him goofy all you want – we love him and wouldn’t trade him for anything. The last administration tried, attempting to switch him out for the generic, focus-grouped “Orange Pride” (lion) or “Orange Pack” (wolf). Just the suggestion caused a near-revolt on campus.

The best nicknames aren’t focus-grouped and may not even seem appealing the first time. Look at Virginia universities – the best mascot is the weirdest and least-appealing at first glance. What the hell is a Hokie? But it’s unique and it’s instantly identifiable with Virginia Tech.

Back to the original question: Should Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have signed this letter? From my comfy office chair, yes, they should have. It’s a racist name that casts the entire region in a bad light and the stink is only getting worse. Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski signed the letter. As Democrats, we should stand up for what’s right without letting political considerations keep us silent.

But all that is very easy for me to say. I guess they’re worried about getting involved in a controversy in which they have limited power to affect change and which could become a distraction from other issues that matter more.

Of course, if that’s the case, Mark Warner shouldn’t be cashing Daniel Snyder’s checks. (Also: Why did Daniel Snyder donate to extremist Liz Cheney’s short-lived Wyoming U.S. Senate campaign??)

  • 1) The “Orangemen” is kinda weird. Of course, I went to a school where the mascot is a “Quaker.” LOL

    2) I won’t say or write the word “R***skins” anymore. To me, it’s equivalent to the “n word” or whatever, and should be shunned by everyone.

  • hrprogressive

    The ‘Skins are huge business in VA, and the fanbase is really loyal. My own father stated he’d stop following the team if they changed the name. I kind of don’t believe him, he’s been a fan for decades, but that’s also the kind of “cut nose/spite face” sort of attitude that I think enough fans of the team might have.

    Warner especially, and to lesser extent I think Kaine, are really proud of their “Business-Friendly” Bonafides in Virginia, so I’m not really surprised.

    I would love to hear their defense of not putting their names on the letter. Even for adept, and generally likeable pols such as them, those ought to be real whoppers.

  • richmonder

    There have been thoughtful commentaries and interviews with Native American tribal chiefs in Virginia on local public radio in the last couple of years that question the political correctness that has engulfed this issue. Tribal leaders in Virginia have not jumped on this bandwagon and several have even said their don’t find it offensive. One has even complained that the crusade for a name change deflects from the important issue of tribal recognition they are seeking, since none of the Virginia tribes are recognized by the Feds. Where’s the concern about that? WaPo profiled a millionaire Native American businessman from up-state New York who has made this a personal crusade, apparently based on experiences from his childhood but without the full support of his own tribe. Somehow he’s leverage his connections and money well. When was the last time anyone heard a racial slur against Native Americans using this name? I’ve never heard it so used, though maybe in the generation of my great great grandparents. I’m not saying there’s no there there, but it sure doesn’t feel like a burning problem for our society.