Don’t give Dan Snyder too much credit for changing the highly controversial nickname of Washington’s NFL team.
Snyder, the owner of the franchise, told USA Today in 2013 that he will “never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps (capital letters).”
But this week, the team announced the Redskins nickname is out; as of the writing of this piece, a new name had not yet been chosen, but it could be announced anytime.
People around here know about name changes and the strife that comes with them. A year ago, the Herald wrote an extensive report about controversial nicknames that have been changed in the region, as well as the ones that still exist.
The Midgets nickname, for instance, is still in use at Dickinson High School in western North Dakota. That district remarkably holds tight to the name, even as that word is considered highly derogatory and offensive.
In Washington, Snyder has said the Redskins name is used in honor of American Indians. He has said it is a nod toward American Indian heritage and is used as a term of respect.
That always has been a ridiculous argument.
In Grand Forks, Central High School changed its name from Redskins to Knights back in the early 1990s. At UND, the nickname “Fighting Sioux” was dropped in the 2000s under pressure from the NCAA. Many say the UND name was indeed meant to honor American Indians, and at least that’s an argument that could be made.
But Redskins? There is no way possible that can be considered respectful of American Indian people. No way.
So Snyder changed his mind, but only after financial pressure was applied from FedEx – which has naming rights of the stadium – and apparently threatened to pull the $8 million-per-year check it writes to Snyder for that opportunity. Pepsi and Nike also applied pressure.
The real credit for the name change should go to those corporations, and not Snyder, whose bold resistance and inability to comprehend the offensiveness of the name showed that, at the very best, he is hopelessly tone deaf.
Other professional sports teams with controversial names are considering changes, and, as we reported last year, many of the region’s high school programs already have taken that step.
Other efforts are happening, too. For example, The Associated Press recently updated its style regarding race, declaring that the words “Black” and “Indigenous” shall be capitalized when used in reference to racial backgrounds.
Although many newspapers, including the Herald, no longer use the AP for content, most newspapers in the nation still follow AP style guidelines for the sake of conformity and to avoid the appearance of making subjective decisions on wording. So we will adopt the new rule.
Times are changing, and that’s not a bad thing. Those who drag their feet into the new world likely will be remembered for doing so.