Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder dug in a long time ago, making it clear he wasn’t going to change the name. Not when there was a strong push three years ago. Not if it means building a stadium in the District. Those periods and exclamation points he once attached to his “No” remain firmly in place.
And after a new Washington Post poll found that 90 percent of Native Americans aren’t bothered by the name, you can revise Snyder's answer to include a few more "Nos" in all caps followed by more exclamation points. Regardless of what side you take on this issue, you have to know this: It strengthens Snyder’s argument not to change the nickname, which has been used since 1937.
The Post polled 504 Native Americans from around the country -- some of whom belonged to a tribe and lived on a reservation (36 percent) and others who did not. The poll also found that 78 percent of Native Americans deemed this issue “not too” or “not at all” important. Of course, that means 22 percent found it important, which is not a number to be dismissed.
The Redskins and their supporters have always maintained that the name is used to honor Native Americans; those against the name say it’s simply a derogatory term that must be changed. If you already felt passionate about one side of the debate, this poll probably won’t alter your views. If you disliked the name, you can claim it’s still wrong to offend even 10 percent of a population. If you liked the name, you simply claim, “See, told you so.”
If you ask the Redskins, they’ll say this is what they’ve been saying for a while. Others will read comments made by Native Americans in the story and come to the same conclusion some of them did: There are far bigger issues in their communities.
The reality, too, is that the pressure to change it has diminished in the past couple of years. The Redskins still draw protesters, depending on what city they’re playing in, but the daily stories about the protests have subsided. The number of politicians calling for change have dwindled or their voices just aren’t heard as much. It gets noticed now if another NFL team uses only the word Washington instead of Redskins in news releases or game notes.
That’s not to say that those against the name have lost their passion or desire, but the amount of attention given to the issue has waned. My guess is this poll was greeted with a "ho-hum" in some corners. My further guess is it probably strengthens the resolve of those opposed to the name; if the Redskins have the sort of success they hope to this season, it will keep them in the public eye. And that could reignite the debate. The key will be getting others to care as much as they did in recent years. Based on the political cycle of the past year, that could be difficult.
The issue is a complicated one, partially because the nickname has been around a long time. Right or wrong, the term is now far more associated with a sports franchise than a slur. It’s not as simple as accusing people who support the name of being racist. Nor should those against it be considered merely enforcers of political correctness; clearly, this issue means a great deal to some. Can we agree on that?
It’s clear this issue won’t go away anytime soon -- there have been steady peaks and valleys for a long time regarding the nickname. But nothing is going to change on this issue, not unless sponsors start pulling out, and if they didn’t do it in the past few years when scrutiny was more intense, what reason is there to do it now? There’s no proof Snyder would make tons of cash simply by changing the name. Also, if the District won’t let them build a new stadium without a name change, Snyder can opt for Maryland or Virginia.
You should also know this: I retweeted the Post story shortly after tweeting out one on third-round pick Kendall Fuller. The link on the latter story received 15 times as many clicks as the one on the team name.