Fall 2013Sports

Hail To the Thinskins

by Tuesday Morning Tailback

Bob Costas has apparently found that the only way to get any attention these days is to spout out some nonsense on his Sunday Night halftime monologue and then complain on Monday about the negative feedback he is receiving from “fringe” groups. During the monologue Costas said;

(The nickname) ‘Redskins’ can’t possibly honor a heritage or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term… it’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present day intent…

Fair enough, we’re all entitled to our opinions and, apparently, doling out opinions is the only task NBC still gives these days to this once prolific broadcaster and studio host. But to then claim that only “fringe” people disagree with him when recent polling shows 79% of Native Americans, 90% of the general public and nearly 100% of Redskins fans have no problem with the nickname puts Costas’s elitist smugness to an astronomical level. After all, it is a nickname which is in its 81st season.

According to Redskins owner Dan Snyder (who has vowed never to change the name), the team adopted the name Redskins in 1933 to honor their head coach and several players who were Native Americans. Now, this is disputed by historians who claim that the team, then based in Boston, changed their nickname from the Boston Braves to the Boston Redskins to show their loyalty to their baseball counterpart when they moved from Braves Field to Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Chances are there is a bit of truth in both accounts. Teams in the young NFL usually mimicked their more established baseball counterparts in big cities, while the NFL also had a strong legacy of embracing Native American players and culture. In fact, there was a short-lived franchise from Ohio called the Oorang Indians made totally of Native American players, led by the legendary Jim Thorpe as their leading player and coach.

The technicalities of this history are not the only thing in dispute. In fact, the origin of the term “redskin” and the reason why exactly this is a “slur” is also unclear. And when the Redskins relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1937, they kept the name and have built a positive legend around it ever since, including being the first team to start an African American quarterback in a Super Bowl. The point is, even if there does happen to be some historical negativity associated with the term, this NFL team has made it an overwhelmingly positive part of the culture, from the generations of Autumn memories to famous “Hail to the Redskins” fight song.

But to groupthink/newspeak/politically-correct tools like Costas, none of this matters. He thinks it should be offensive and the rest of us are just too culturally unsophisticated to understand why. And, by the way, President Obama (who apparently has nothing better to do these days) has weighed in with a similar opinion in recent days. So this talented commentator whose career is sadly in decline, saw his opening to get some attention for a few days, as he had last December over gun violence, which I pointed out in the Tuesday Morning Tailback article Salivating Over a Tragedy.

Rush Limbaugh was another commentator who introduced politics into the NFL a decade ago and was abruptly fired from his short gig on ESPN because he was on the “wrong” side of political correctness. But on a separate occasion Limbaugh put the NFL, and sports viewing in general, in perspective when he said it is one of the few places in life where you can become emotionally invested without having any real risk of harm, if things don’t go your way. I agree, this is all really a suspended reality in which to recreate and it depends on many factors – history included – to sustain its viability.

Costas has been covering the NFL for a good chunk of that history. Starting with NBC in the early 1980s, he was host of NFL Live for nearly a decade and had no problem using the name “Redskins” thousands of times over that time period. But now he feels there is a crusade to launch, because a very small minority just cannot exist in the same world where a professional team uses the nickname they’ve used for 80 years.

Perhaps we should rename the team the “Thinskins” in honor of all those whose feelings get so hurt that they demand anything they don’t like be whitewashed from the world.


Tuesday Morning TailbackTuesday Morning Tailback is a weekly article during football season which take a critical look at the NFL. We do this from the base belief that NFL football is the greatest game in the history of mankind, but some recent policies and the overall direction of the league has chipped away at this greatness. Our primary goal is to spark debate on these subjects, so please leave your own opinion on this article in the comment box below.

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