Why the Washington Football Team Should Adopt a New Team Name.

I have no doubt that for many the use of the Washington NFL team’s nickname is meant to be an honor. My objection to the name is simple. There are many Native American tribes and groups who are opposed to all uses of Native American imagery and reference for non-Native American sports teams. There are many individuals of Native American descent who are similarly opposed and have said so publicly.

I’m aware that many other Native Americans say they’re proud of the names and teams, and I’m certain the reason there is a debate now is because of this ambivalence within the community.

But what I hear in the objection is more personal and moving than is the support. Many people find the use of the nickname painful and demeaning and would like it to stop. In 1972 the Stanford sports teams stopped using Indian imagery and references for their team names. My favorite college, St. Johns, stopped using the team name Redmen years ago, as have many other teams at every level in the US and Canada.

They’ve done this out of respect for the Native Americans who have objected, who have said that using the names is disrespectful and hurtful. For me, that’s the side I want to be on.

okflagvignetteOne thing I learned from this discussion was that the state name Oklahoma is a combination of two Choctaw words that add up to mean Red People. The funny thing about this is that the state is proud of its Indian heritage, and features on its shield five flags, each representing one of the major Native American tribes that reside there.

I say funny, because these five tribes, the Creeks, Choctaw, Seminoles (isn’t that the name of a Florida football team?), Chickasaw and Cherokee were forcibly resettled in the state. Not, I’m assuming, because of its bountiful natural resources. There’s a reason this forcible relocation from their homes in the southeastern part of the US, in a devastating march west, is called the Trail of Tears.

This is a heritage all of us live with, even if many of us don’t think about it all that often. Which is why I listen when I’m reminded  of it, especially by people whose personal history has been so starkly and dramatically colored by it. For me, if our continued use of their caricatures on our sports teams is painful, it is time to stop.

In any case, I hoped to provoke discussion and thought about the use of Native American names and imagery by omitting the Washington team’s name from the Guide, and I appreciate the letters from those who have objected to it, as well as those who’ve spoken out in support. If we continue to discuss and argue about the real issues here, I’m sure we’ll eventually come to a proper resolution.

Ripping Murray Chass a New One! And He Rips One Right Back!

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 3.23.54 PM
Last week venerable former NY Times baseball columnist Murray Chass revealed his Hall of Fame ballot, or at least most of it. The names he named are all worthy: Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris and maybe Frank Thomas. That’s it.

Chass goes on to explain that he will not vote for any player about whom there is the slightest whiff of the taint of performance enhancing drugs. He does not, he says, want to reward any player and then later find out that player had cheated. So, naturally, no vote for Bonds or Clemens, Palmeiro, McGwire and Sosa, but also no vote for Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza and Craig Biggio, too, about whom the only steroids talk has been the wispiest hearsay. Naturally enough, the world of baseball bloggers went crazy on Chass, as they do almost any time he says anything having to do with blogging or sabremetrics or breathing. Chass, by virtue of his long association with the Times and his opinions about so many baseball issues, is one of the old school’s most effective trolls.

Chass goes to great lengths in a subsequent column to explain why his Piazza bacne conjecture, and his Biggio finger pointing, add up to grounds not to vote for them and it all comes down to this: It’s up to Chass and this is the way he feels.

So be it. That’s all that needs to be said. But after having so much vitriol heaped upon him, Chass gets in the final kick to the gut. After having said that this was probably his last HoF vote, but now having considered the crap he has been subjected to, Chass says he’s going to keep on voting, just to rub salt in the wounds. “How could I relinquish my vote when I know how much it annoys you,” he says.

My personal opinion is that the Hall of Fame represents the wishes of those voting, then later modified by whatever claptrap veterans committee is cobbled together to correct/distort the original will of the writers. Obviously Chass and his cohort can do whatever they want, the ballots are their ballots for now, but I have little interest in a Hall that excludes Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both of whom had complete Hall-worthy careers before there was any PEDs taint associated with them.

Enough said.