The Spirit of Washington Redskin Fundamentalism

Since the events of 9/11, the Corporatist Sportsworld in general, and the National Football League in particular, have increasingly promoted the brand of American Militarism. For example, if you took a shot of whiskey every time an Armed Services recruitment ad aired during a typical NFL game telecast, you would probably be drunk by Halftime. Then there are those thrillingly gratuitous military jet overflights of fan-packed stadiums, which are not included in the high prices of the tickets; those are tax-dollars searing the air overhead. Or consider the “live look-ins” at soldiers based in Afghanistan, especially during the Holiday Season, as even the Holidays become more and more militarized: Jim Nantz never questions why our “brave American men and women in uniform” are still stationed over there, nearly two decades after their initial insertion. It’s like a never-ending War Zone celebration dance that Nantz narrates: all part of the fun and spirit of the Game!

Nevertheless, despite all manner of “surges” and End-Game tactics, the Taliban QB–or, quarterback–always eludes our latest “blitz package”–as if the average citizen-fan never tires of watching the same “replay” over and over again. Indeed, the war cry in Afghanistan now seems to be: “We’ll get’em next replay!” Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen–maybe a “TBA” with Iran? Certainly, the “Great Game” in Afghanistan has gone terribly deep into “overtime,” as if the referees are either dead, or simply lost the ability to blow a whistle.

The present piece was written in the recent past, 2014, concerning the mild uproar, at that time, over the insulting nature of one NFL franchise’s brand image: the Washington “Redskin.” Although I suggest an alternative logo during the article, upon further reflection, perhaps the “Washington Pentagons” would be the better name for the professional footballers from DC? Otherwise, none of the issues discussed below have moved one inch in 5 years–and they say that it’s a “game of inches…”


It’s September again, and that means that the Roman Circus of the National Football League is back in session.

For the most part, it’s business as usual: “broken plays” and broken bones; “blown coverages” and blown-out knees. However, back in May (2014), ten members of the Congressional Native American Caucus scored several headlines by threatening legal action against a Pro Football franchise, the Washington Redskins. These congressmen contended that the Washington mascot, the “Redskin,” constitutes a racial slur; moreover, they made legislative motions to force the franchise to change its name. Indeed, the “Redskin” controversy garnered almost as much attention as the state of (then) star quarterback RG III’s wounded knee.

Such a name-change, reflecting prevailing cultural sensibilities, has a recent precedent in the DC Pro Sportsworld. The basketball “Bullets” turned into the “Wizards” in 1997, due to the connotation of violence in the name “Bullets.” “Bullets” owner Abe Polin decided to change the team’s name when his longtime friend, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was gunned down in 1995.

Daniel Snyder, the impish owner of the Redskins, however, has been consistently defiant on this issue. Sticking to his guns, so to speak, Snyder has publicly vowed: “We’ll never change the name…it’s that simple. Never–you can use caps!.” One is tempted to ask: “CAPS as in bullets, Mr. Snyder?”

For my part, I’ve always thought that the Washington franchise should change its name. Given the absolute lack of players and coaches of Native American origin, I believe that the “Redskin” logo is patently misleading. Instead, I would propose the name “Washington Black-and-Whiteskins,” as both more appropriate and entirely accurate, in light of the preponderance of black and white players–year in and year out–on the team.

Of course, such a logical re-branding of the Washington team might undermine the Sporting World’s official policy of lip-synching racial harmony by promoting an actual image–however verbal–of the same, rendering it too “black and white,” you could say–and, on the hallowed ground of the team concept, no less! Incidentally, as our corporate overlords and managers are ever fond of reiterating: there’s no “I” in team, which explains why team is blind–but that’s another deal…

Back to the case at hand: Some “whites” would object, no doubt, to the “black” preceding the “white” in the logo “Black-and-Whiteskins,” even though the reverse arrangement, “White-and-Blackskins” would be rather dyslexically awkward, causing a chronic case of headache amongst the fan-base, perhaps, like reading “The Last of the Mohicans” upside-down, or right-to-left.

The “and” itself, naturally, might generate its own controversy, with its radically conjunctive note of equivalency. Your garden variety white supremacist, for example, would insist that the “white” be positioned above the “black” on the helmet, which only recapitulates the previous dyslexical white objection, if only in more openly racist form. On typographical grounds alone, the supremacist’s perspective is clearly out-of-bounds. As for the mere white separatist, you would think that an ellipsis–or very long dash mark–would do the trick, making the “Washington Black-and-Whiteskins” a more attractive label–except that the concept of ellipsis eclipses the separatist’s grasp of reality, in all probability. Even a hint of juxtaposition can be enough to turn the separatist’s white skin…red.

Beyond the marginal, fringe constituency that the white supremacist-separatist fan-base is said to embody, let’s consider the more common core, traditionalist view: that of the Red, White, and Blue-blooded Redskin Fundamentalist, represented by the Scrooge-like owner, Mr. Snyder.

The Redskin Fundamentalist believes that his team’s logo transcends the vicissitudes of time, place, opinions, and fashion. Only what is best, and noblest, is preserved in the indelible icon, reflecting the virtuous victory of civilization in its oft cruel confrontation with the miscreant Savage (sometimes referred to as “Labor”…). For the traditionalist, the “Redskin” logo symbolizes preservation without reservation. The beauty of the iconic “Redskin” image lies in the fact that it sublimates and whitewashes the Savage, cleaning him up for civilized consumption–thereby ennobling him, as it were…

And this is precisely the issue. The “Redskin” on the Washington football helmet represents nothing less than a trophy of the historical hunt: a sporting testament to the subjugation and, in many cases, extermination, of an entire group of indigenous, continental people. The reservation system itself has always been a bit of genocide on the installment plan

Indeed, it is one of the enduring paradoxes of the American Tradition that we, who claim to love Freedom the most, held on to Slavery the longest. The so-called “Redskins” themselves, as a conquered and incarcerated people, also embody this obviously ignominious side of our legacy. Put another way: We thugged the original North Americans out of their lands–and not “their lands” in the sense of “Property,” which is a white Western legalism–then slapped their disenfranchised likeness on a football helmet.

So, on second thought, maybe the “Redskin” icon should stay? It stands as both an ironic symbol and powerful reminder of the domination of an indigenous people, the “Native Americans”: or, How the West was really won. To the smug Scrooge Snyder I say: “Bah, hum-thug!” In the case of the Washington Redskin, there’s more mask of thuggery to the mascot than meets the culturally conditioned sporting eye; seen more clearly, it represents centuries of a Big White Lie.

Todd Smith lives, writes, and observes the Brave New World Order in St. Louis. He can be reached at Read other articles by Todd.