It’s almost 2011 and there’s still a professional sports franchise called the Washington Redskins. My mind is officially in a state of full-blown bogglement.
Native Americans have complained for decades about how insulting this name is. I put myself in their place and I can empathize. How would I feel if there was a Detroit Droolers, a Seattle Spastics or an Indianapolis Invalids? I’d be riled too. But that’ll never happen. When naming a sports team, you have to name it after something that’s either a) fierce and ferocious (Panthers) or b) proudly indigenous (Buckeyes). Nobody thinks cripples are ferocious. True, cripples scare people, but not for the right reasons. And yes, cripples are indigenous. You find them everywhere you go. But nobody wants to advertise that.
So this is one realm at least where cripples are safe from degradation. But not so for Native Americans. A group of them pursued a lawsuit that began in 1992 and didn’t end until last fall. They said the Redskins trademark violated the Lanham Act, which says no trademark may “disparage” living or dead people or “institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.” At first they won but then they lost on appeal and when the Supreme Court refused to hear the case the Redskins prevailed and got to keep their precious nickname.
Team ownership clings tenaciously to the name, no matter who gets hurt. They are like hoarders. They refuse to throw things out no matter how much they stink. They could take the graceful, civilized way out by switching to a team name is both indigenous to Washington and ferocious. There are plenty such animals in D.C. How about the Washington IRS Auditors? Everybody’s terrified of them. Or how about the Washington Corporate Lobbyists? Those guys will squash you like a bug.
Redskins’ ownership is determined to keep their name for three reasons: money, revenue and cash. So I have a proposal that might settle this thing for good. How about if they keep their damn Redskins name but change their logo to a potato? It can be a fierce potato with a menacing snarl and razor teeth. Or it can be a rotten, rancid potato that will give you botulism. That’s pretty scary.
Or it can be a fightin’ potato. If you want to name your sports team after something indigenous but innocuous and you need to make it fierce, you just add the word fightin’, as in Fightin’ Irish. A leprechaun looks like a bad ass when his dupes are up. So maybe the Washington bad ass potato could have six-pack abs, bulging biceps and boxing gloves.
Robert Raskopf is the hot shot New York lawyer who won the case for the Redskins. I called him at his firm but his wasn’t in so I left a voicemail. I presented my journalistic credentials: “I write a blog called Smart Ass Cripple. I wonder if your clients would be open to changing their team logo to a potato? That way they can keep their name and no one gets disparaged. It can even be a menacing potato if need be. Please return my call and let me know if there’s any room for compromise.”
For some reason, Raskopf hasn’t called me back.