by Kent Sterling
There are smart people whom I respect who see nothing wrong with the Washington Redskins using what amounts to a racial epithet as their nickname.
Some NFL teams have chosen animals like Bears, Lions, Rams, Seahawks, and Falcons to represent their franchises, while others honored hard-working blue collar workers like Packers and Steelers with their names. Washington inexplicably chose what is viewed by Native Americans as the equivalent to the n-word for African Americans.
Presented with pleas from many Native American groups, Washington owner Dan Snyder has been intractable in keeping the Redskins name as though it is his birthright to offend because that’s the way it has always been.
Many agree, including some Native American groups who use the name themselves for their high school teams. Self-entertaining former NFL coach Mike Ditka joined that chorus recently in such a strange and clumsy way that his comments have galvanized opposition to his position.
Former NFL referee Mike Carey answered questions for the first time about the Redskins name in yesterday’s Washington Post column by Mike Wise, and his presentation was quite a bit different than Ditka’s.
As you evaluate your perspective on the debate over the use of Redskins in the media and by the Washington NFL team, read the collections of quotes below by both Ditka and Carey, and instead of deciding which you might agree more with, evaluate them as though they were said by your son or daughter, or your mother or father.
Which set of quotes would you be more proud to have represent your child or parent?
Mike Carey – the official who quietly refused to referee Washington games since 2006:
- “It just became clear to me that to be in the middle of the field, where something disrespectful is happening, was probably not the best thing for me,”
- “Human beings take social stances, and if you’re respectful of all human beings, you have to decide what you’re going to do and why you’re going to do it.”
- “I know that if a team had a derogatory name for African Americans, I would help those who helped extinguish that name. I have quite a few friends who are Native Americans. And even if I didn’t have Native American friends, the name of the team is disrespectful.”
- “The popularity contest is not an issue. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t like it. It is disrespectful, and I will not use it.”
- “In America, we’ve learned that respect is the most important thing that you have. I learned it from my parents, my schools, from my faith. And when you learn there’s something that might not be as respectful as you like, when you come to terms with it, you have to do something about it.”
- “I was never comfortable with the name. I’ve never said [the team’s name] in my games. But then I realized it wasn’t an option to be part of them anymore. For me, I just knew. I knew that everybody — everybody — deserves a level of respect.”
NFL Hall of Famer, former Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints coach Mike Ditka
- “What’s all the stink over the Redskin name? It’s so much [expletive] it’s incredible. We’re going to let the liberals of the world run this world. It was said out of reverence, out of pride to the American Indian. Even though it was called a Redskin, what are you going to call them, a Brownskin?
- “This is so stupid it’s appalling, and I hope that owner keeps fighting for it and never changes it, because the Redskins are part of an American football history, and it should never be anything but the Washington Redskins. That’s the way it is.”
- “Its been the name of the team since the beginning of football,” Ditka said. “It has nothing to do with something that happened lately, or something that somebody dreamed up. This was the name, period. Leave it alone. These people are silly — asinine, actually, in my opinion.”
- “I admire him for it. Really, I think it’s tradition, it’s history, it’s part of the National Football League. It was about Sammy Baugh and all the guys who were Redskins way back then. I didn’t think that Lombardi and Halas never had a problem with it, why would all these other idiots have a problem with the name? I’m sorry.
- “I’m not very tolerant when it comes to the liberals who complain about everything.”
Where you stand is one thing, but what will you teach your children or learn from your parents, and which side of this debate would you like them on?