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August 30, 2013

Is it time for Redskins to find a new name?

Mention the Washington Redskins and names like Joe Theismann, Art Monk and Sonny Jurgensen come to mind. They were great players on great teams. Robert Griffin III might be added to the list someday, as well.

But another subject has some grumbling that political correctness has reached its zenith in Washington. That is the team’s nickname – the Redskins – which has drawn claims that it carries racial overtones and draws out the NFL franchise’s history of discrimination.

I’d never given much thought to the the team’s label until Goshen, a community in northern Indiana, started discussing whether "Redskins" was an appropriate mascot for the local high school and its athletes. Many see it as a racially derogatory expression that is offensive to Native Americans.

Really, team nicknames, mascots and labels seem a little silly. I can’t give you much information about why they’re called the Dodgers or what a Catamount is. I can't describe a Hoosier. I do know that such terms have rallied communities and, in some cases, become loved and valued identities.

The controversy in Washington has reached such a pitch that team owner Daniel Snyder discounted any possibility about renaming the team when talking to USA Today: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps.”

Critics point to the case of the Penobscot Indian Nation whose tribesmen in the mid-18th century were tracked and killed for money. Their scalps – “redskins” – brought a nice bounty, explained Eni Faleomavaega, the delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from American Samoa, in a column for Politico.

The current chief of the Penobscot Nation, Kirk Francis, described this hunting and killing of men, women and children as a “most despicable and disgraceful act of genocide.”

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