What is in a name?


David is outside filling the bird feeders.  This delights me because only in recent years has he acquired this love of birds.  “I saw the little Chick-a-dee,” he says as he comes in the house, “she was the first one to the feeder.”  The Northern Chickadees have returned.  In warmer months, we see many Carolina Chickadees and Titmice together.

David’s former FIL, a hen-pecked music teacher, taught David’s children about birds.  David liked his FIL and disliked his MIL “Nanny-Lou.”  She was a Southern throw-back if there ever was one.  “Those N-word are not as good as us white-folk,” she told the children.  Fortunately, David’s children grew up in Liberal Northern Virginia.


Today, the talk around the Washington DC area is about the name of the local football team. I don’t follow football, and don’t like Dan Snyder, owner of the local team, who cut down very old trees because, he said, they were blocking his view of the Potomac River.  The George Washington Parkway, which adjoins his property, is federally protected land, restored by the CCC in the 1930s.  Most of the trees Snyder destroyed were old, others only 70-80 years old….a climax forest.  After his original excuse for wanton destruction fell on deaf ears, he said he cut weeds.

A tribal group from the U. S. southwest is suing Snyder because they decided the team he owns has an offensive name, ‘Redskin.’ Currently, the dispute involves several groups, tribal and not who like or dislike the team name.  Tribes across the US have come forth with an opinion.

I don’t like football, don’t like the name, don’t like the team, except for RGIII who is good to his mother, and I don’t like Snyder.  Until this week, I could have cared less about the outcome of the suit.  But that was then.  Now I am angry, because the petitioner has asked the FCC to ban the use of the team name on the airwaves.  To me this smacks of censorship, and I am mostly opposed to censorship.

Critical thinking involves listening to all sides to reach an informed decision (why I listen to the BBC, FOX, CNN and PBS, and read Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman and other liberal writers in the NYTimes, and syndicated conservative columnist Charles Krautheimer). The first amendment protects our right to free speech.  We also have a right to an INFORMED opinion, but informed opinions can only be formed by carefully listening to what those with opposing views say. You can’t hear opposing comments if someone places a gag order on a speaker they don’t like.

I also believe many people could exercise better judgement. Why would you want to say or write something hateful to another?  Why can’t the local team acquire a new name?  The team names Wizards, Nationals and Patriots are taken. Have a contest, let the kids decide.  They have to live with the consequences.



14 thoughts on “What is in a name?

  1. I have rarely if ever referred to the team in question. Now the New Orleans Saints–a different matter. I often refer to that team. In a recent conversation a relative expressed his discomfort with giving a sports team the name “Saints” that has spiritual connotations. That view had never occurred to me.


  2. I get your point, but I believe that people should be called what they want to be called, and if Native Americans don’t like Redskins then they shouldn’t be called Redskins. How about The Washington Lawyers, the Washington Lobbyists, the Washington Elitists . . . well, you get my drift. (But, really, I don’t mean to offend; I actually like DC, except for the traffic.)


    • The problem is that there are no clear boundaries in the dispute. Some tribes like the name and some don’t. Not having used the term…ever…I have no opinion on the decision to be made by the FCC, but think we need to accept that sometimes censorship is necessary. Who will decide what gets censored is debatable.


  3. You inspire me this morning. I’m leaving shortly to see the Blue Man Group for the first time, and I am sure they will below any inspiration out of me.


  4. Censorship is one matter, but offensive language is quite another. I feel if the name Redskins is deemed offensive to a certain tribe or other tribes, then good taste should prevail and the name changed. I don’t care for the N word either, nor do African-Americans. Glad the N word is not used in civilized society anymore.


    • The problem is there is no good word to replace what is a term used to honor this group. The team song begins “Hail to the Redskins”. Also, the team was named to honor a particular man…according to the Washington Post. (Every thing I know is based on what I have read in the post.)

      While you and I might agree that one should not use offensive language, deciding just exactly what is offensive is subjective. Many people (some of them members of tribes) don’t think the term Redskins is offensive. Thus, to deny the usage of the term is censorship.

      I was once chastised for writing ‘asses are animals (burrows).’ I mentioned that the word ass is found in biblical passages, but this carried no weight with my boss. That’s censorship.


  5. The Washington Wizards were not so long ago known as the Washington Bullets weren’t they? The name was changed by the owner because of the violent overtones of the name. That was in 1995 and I don’t think anyone bemoans that any more.


    • I don’t. But the Redskins are a much older team and apparently the name was supposed to honor a certain tribe. Interestingly, the tribe that brought the lawsuit has a school team named redskins… Go figure.


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