Of principles and pragmatism: your vote on Washington Redskins brand

Red, but not skinned!
Guest Kat Miri Frankel's recent blogpost ("Crowdsourcing a Brand New Name", here) on the sustained campaign of objections to the use of the iconic Washington Redskins name in the United States reflected concerns that the name was offensive to Native Americans which the IPKat first picked up as long ago as 2005, here, On the one hand the name is itself part of American sports history and there is no doubt that, as an intellectual asset, it has the power to attract and retain consumer loyalty and to generate highly substantial revenues. On the other hand, the fact that a brand has a long and distinguished past does not guarantee that it has a future, and both cultural attitudes and social norms have changed greatly since the name was adopted.

The IPKat ran a sidebar poll in order to give readers a chance to offer their own thoughts on the subject. This is how the 161 votes panned [Merpel was most surprised at the low turn-out: is this a further sign of voter apathy, she wonders] out:
* It's a great brand with a great tradition and should be retained at all costs 60 (37%)  
* It's only offensive to a small minority, so why worry? 10 (6%)  
* It doesn't matter if the brand's offensive or not: it's politically incorrect and should be dropped 9 (5%)  
* The feelings of all minorities should be respected: the brand should be dropped 30 (18%)  
* Isn't this an opportunity for a profitable major rebrand? 52 (32%) 
Readers' loyalty to the brand, or at least their feeling that such loyalty was a value that validated the continued use of the brand, was the most commonly-expressed sentiment, with more than a third of respondents supporting the brand's retention.  Against that, those who felt that it ought to be dropped for reasons of principle based on its being either politically incorrect or actually offensive aggregated only 23% of responses: these respondents were outnumbered by 'fellow travellers' so far as ditching the brand is concerned, but who do not so much turn a disapproving countenance to the brand's actual or potential offensive qualities as seize the moment to turn any discomfiture into a positive chance to refresh, rebrand, rebuild -- with all the commercial and cultural advantages that such an exercise might encompass.
Of principles and pragmatism: your vote on Washington Redskins brand Of principles and pragmatism: your vote on Washington Redskins brand Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, October 07, 2013 Rating: 5


  1. Those who are offended - just how offended are they? Are they offended enough to justify my posting this anonymously? Or am I posting anonymously simply because I'm afraid of being judged illiberal?

  2. This is a truly disgraceful result - that 70 people (almost half of those polled) actually believe that offending an entire ethnicity is an acceptable cost for the sake of a sporting team name.

    I can only hope that most of those 70 people are not Americans, and merely don't understand the context.
    America's treatment of Native Americans has been disrespectful and disingenuous (and at times genocidal) for over 500 years. Most Americans rarely give a second thought to the issue, and Native Americans are today the most marginalized (literally and figuratively) of all ethnicities.

    If the team had been called the Washington Ni**ers it would have been changed long ago. Why do Native Americans not deserve the same respect? They have been calling for a change to the team name for long enough.

    Perhaps the Native American community should start their own football team. They can draft a crew of fat, beer guzzling, high-school dropouts, drive to games in pickup trucks, and call the team the "Rednecks". Perhaps this will instill a bit of empathy in people?

  3. Anonymous @ 11:20,

    Instead of indignation at the results, perhaps it is you that needs to realize the context of the Washington Redskins.

    It is you that seeks to inflame the term, whose meaning simply does not carry the meaning you wish it to have.

    This is simply NOT a matter of comparison with the "N" word, no matter how hard you try to make it.

    A lesson in Political Correctness: your attempt at 'forcing' empathy will only work if there is a real harm underneath. For the term Redskins, such 'harm' simply is not there.

    Move on.

  4. @ Anonymous @ 13:12,

    I might agree with you if it weren't for the two lawsuits filed by the group of people to whom the term is offensive. Clearly they don't like it so why must we insist on using it, even if WE feel that the context is different? The measure of a message is how it is perceived by the receiver, not by the intentions of the sender.

    The first case, incidentally, was almost successful - the USPTO was ready to throw out the trademark for being offensive, but the ruling was overturned on account of the doctrine of laches.

    I know of no credible use of the term "redskin" (outside of football) that is anything but derogatory to native americans. See http://firstpeoples.org/wp/controversy-heats-up-over-washington-redskins-racially-insensitive-name/

    Even in the football context, the term is meant to evoke images of frightening warriors, ostensibly creating fear in the opposing team.

    I think it time (and so does President Obama) that we finally quit using a clearly offensive term for the NFL team of our nation's capital.

  5. Sorry, but just about anyone can (and does) file lawsuits.

    That means nothing to me and the vast majority of rational people who simply do not view the term with such a derogatory meaning. In fact, the term is not used outside of the accepted (that is, generally accepted, non-eggshelled PC) crowd.

    And sure, people can have their opinions, but that simply does not wash with the larger majority - as evidence in the poll results - no matter how much some small minority want the issue to reverberate - it really is NOT that big of a deal. I 'get' that some want it to be a 'big deal.' Sorry, it just is not.

    Move on.

  6. A quick internet search shows over 60 high school teams (including at least one primarily Native American) in 22 states...should they all be forced to change their names to?

  7. What I find offensive is someone else telling me what is offensive (and doing so with no regard to actual context).

    Bob Costas during the Redskins/Cowboys game gave a commercial for PC that I found offensive.

    Constantly beating the drum and trying to make an issue when no issue is there is playing the race card for the sake of playing the race card.

    Any - and I do mean any word is potentially offensive to someone. Let's try to take the term in its ACTUAL context instead of trying oh so very hard to imagine a slight that is not there.


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