The Washington Ni**ers would cause a riot. The Washington K*kes would lead to lawsuits. The Washington Sp*cs would be deemed repulsive. And the Washington H*nkies would have a certain group of white people ready to storm something else in the Nation’s Capital. But for the new owners in D.C., using “Redskins” in 2023 doesn’t seem to be problematic — or racist — at all.
“Well I know this, Mr. (Josh) Harris and that ownership group talked extensively about bringing back the glory,” Commanders head coach Ron Rivera — who’s Latino — recently said about the term being resurrected. “And again, what Coach (Joe) Gibbs did, the traditions, that alumni group of guys that are around. It’s hard to escape it. It really is. That’s just the truth of the matter. Just so everybody knows, we do that with the utmost respect for the native tribes and for the American Indian. Anytime that’s brought up, it is brought up with the utmost of respect.”
How do you use a racial slur with “the utmost of respect” when the name had to be changed due to decades of it being disrespectful to an entire race of people?
If you thought the racism, misogyny, and ineptness were over when Dan Snyder sold this team, boy were you wrong. The idea that this is happening inside the building and that Rivera dared to tell the public, is proof of just how systemic and deep-rooted racism is in America — especially the NFL. Never forget that this is a franchise that still employs Jack Del Rio as their defensive coordinator — a man that was fined $100,000 in 2022 for labeling the events of January 6th as a “dust-up.”
On the surface, this situation looks bad due to the new ownership using the same racial slur that the old toxic owner was basically forced to change. But if you go a little deeper, you realize just how hateful this news is, given who some of the people with power are in Washington.
In 1984 Rivera became the first person of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent to play in the NFL, making him a racial pioneer — he’s definitely been called a slur before. In 2020, the franchise made history when they hired Jason Wright to be the first Black team President in NFL history. His hiring took place during America’s faux “racial awakening,” which points to the racism he’s endured. And just this year, Magic Johnson’s latest investment made him a minority owner of the team — a man that’s dealt with racism for over six decades.
“As a proud black man, this is a great opportunity,” Johnson said on a recent episode of the Today Show, as he choked up when discussing what it meant to be an owner of an NFL team. “I don’t know why God blessed me with these opportunities, but I want to excel not only for myself and my family, but for all African-Americans, making sure we can see ourselves in these seats.”
To that, I ask Rivera, Wright, and Johnson, “What about members of the Indigenous and Native American communities who also want to see themselves in positions of power within a pro sports franchise? What do you say to them, while still using the term “Redskins” or allowing others to say it?”
It hits differently when you realize that you’re a member of the oppressed who is still actively involved in oppression. Just because you’re a minority, it doesn’t mean everyone is in this together.
Last season the Commanders finished 8-8-1 and haven’t had a winning season since 2016. The franchise hasn’t been victorious in the postseason since 2005. They’re not a good football team and haven’t been one in a very long time. Using an old racist team name isn’t going to make you better, that comes with development and growth — on the field and in the front office.
When Dan Snyder walked out the door in D.C. people thought the team had turned a new page. But according to Ron Rivera, they’re only concerned with being obsessed with previous racist chapters.