Change the Redskins' nickname? Yes, but only the fans can force it

2013-11-25T00:00:00Z Change the Redskins' nickname? Yes, but only the fans can force itBy Tim Wendel Arizona Daily Star
November 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Dan Snyder is adamant that he will not change the nickname of his beloved football team.

It doesn’t matter to him that at least 28 high schools and 20 colleges have made the switch in recent years. Or that the Redskins call Washington their home and even the president has suggested changing the team name.

Snyder cheered for the Redskins as a kid, and now that he’s in control even National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell cannot sway him from this growing public-relations storm.

The myth that sports owners are true stewards for the game went out the window forever when baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers and San Francisco Giants left New York for more lucrative markets on the West Coast.

“When Walter O’Malley moved his Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958, it marked the era of disloyal teams and changed the sports world forever,” says economist Andrew Zimbalist. But at least O’Malley and his cohort, the Giants’ Horace Stoneman, believed they could make even more money in California.

One cannot be certain what Snyder’s logic is. Part of it may be he’s a successful, stubborn businessman who doesn’t like to be told what to do, even if the commissioner is whispering words of wisdom in his ear. We also know Snyder is a lifelong fan of this team. He grew up rooting for the Redskins, and that makes a name change on his watch much more problematic.

Of course, we’ve always had owners who bordered upon being megalomaniacs. Al Davis, Marge Schott and George Steinbrenner come to mind. But at least they understood that you always needed the common folk coming through the turnstiles. You had to keep them on board.

Snyder would be in for a financial windfall if he did change the name to the Americans, Warriors or even the Bravehearts, a nickname that his neighbor recently filed a patent on.

Not only would the owner be seen as a local hero, but think of all the new merchandise he could sell. Yet Snyder refuses to go down that path. 

Through it all, the ones caught in the middle are the fans. Many of them still wear the ’Skins gear and come out in droves for the team. Despite only four playoff appearances since 1993, Washington’s football team remains the top ticket in the area.

That makes it easy to ignore common sense and even common decency that no team should be called the Redskins — a name that some regard as a racial slur — in this day and age.

So, good luck with Goodell working the back channels, sports journalists refusing to use the moniker in their stories or even the growing protests about the nickname when the Redskins go on the road.

Ultimately, the power for change lies with the hometown fans.  Until they take a stand, this name game will remain an embarrassment .

Tim Wendel, author of nine books,, most recently “Summer of ‘68: The Season That Changed Baseball — and America — Forever.” is a writer in residence at Johns Hopkins University.

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