The resurgence of the Washington Redskins means many things, to many people. The state once again has a vital sports franchise, a young star athlete capturing the nation's attention, and a reason to wear red and yellow other than irony. But it means something very different to D.C. mayor Vincent C. Gray. The team's heightened profile demands the Redskins change their name, or, at the very least, have a very serious discussion about doing so, says Gray.
When recent talks began regarding the Redskins returning to play in Washington, D.C. proper, Mayor Gray suggested a name change discussion was necessary.
"I think that if they get serious with the team coming back to Washington, there's no doubt there's going to have to be a discussion about that, and of course the team is going to have to work with us around that issue," he said, the Washington Post reported.
Gray made the point that numerous major sports teams, such as the Washington Bullets, have traded in their offensive names and/or mascots for more friendly monikers and the like.
"I think it has become a lightning rod, and I would be love to be able to sit down with the team ... and see if a change should be made," he said. "There's a precedent for this, and I think there needs to be a dispassionate discussion about this, and do the right thing."
The Redskins name has long been criticized for being an explicit racial slur. However, owners Jack Kent Cooke and Daniel M. Snyder have been resistant to such a change.
Mayor Gray didn't outright say the Redskins name was a "dealbreaker" for the team, but as the Post points out he "obliquely [mentioned] that the federal government, not the District, ultimately controls the land on which RFK Stadium now sits and on which a replacement football stadium would most likely be built."
A statement of fact Gray may have intended as a poignant reminder; when the Redskins were owned by proudly racist George Preston Marshall, the team didn't field a black player until 1962 when Interior Secretary Stewart Udall threatened to revoke the team's access to RFK stadium unless it integrated. Gray's words could be read as a similar threat to a team that walks an increasingly thinner line between sentimental nostalgia and being on the wrong side of history.
If the Redskins were to change their name, they wouldn't be the first sports team to ditch the moniker. The Monitor reports that between 1991 and 2008, 11 high schools and two colleges stopped using the name Redskins for their teams.
What do you think? Is it high time the Redskins re-thought their name? Or is Mayor Gray just thin-skinned?