The Intolerant Tale of the ‘Redskins’

What do the Washington Redskins have to do with South Carolina?

No, this is not a Daniel Snyder-fueled relocation story or a pending shift in training-camp venues for the Beltway’s favorite football team. It’s about the realization that the nickname Redskins has all but run its course.

And The Palmetto State’s removal of the Confederate Flag from its capitol grounds, only sped up that process.

After all, winners write history and those who support the nickname Redskins have now been successfully labeled as bigots by the kinder and gentler of the politically-correct crowd, and racists by those sensing blood in the water.

For some who believe the ends justifies the means as long as you are camped on the moral high ground, South Carolina’s shift only validated their position.

The debate whether it’s proper to use questionable methods as long as something “good” is accomplished will be fought another day but as far as the Redskins name is concerned, the train has already left the station.

And the locomotive is only gaining steam as evidenced when the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development of all people painted South Carolina’s actions as a domino toward getting rid of the nickname.

“I very much agree that the (Redskins) name is offensive,” Julian Castro said at the Native News Media Conference, a meeting sponsored by the Native American Journalists Association and Native Public Media.

“There’s a feeling in our nation that there’s this moment, this window of opportunity, to address these deep-seated challenges, these wounds that we’ve had, certainly with the African-American community, but also with the Native American community,” he continued.” My hope is that may mold change.”

Castro’s comments also came on the heels of a federal judge affirming the 2014 decision of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that Redskins trademarks are disparaging to Native Americans.

“This is a huge victory,” attorney Jesse Witten told the Washington Post. “Getting this ruling from a U.S. District judge is a watershed event.”

Watershed or not Snyder and Co. are expected to continue to fight even if that means trying to get the Supreme Court to hear the case after all appeals are exhausted.

“The team has been fighting this case so hard and leaving no stone unturned and scorching every square inch of earth that it’s hard to imagine they will not appeal,” Witten admitted.

The Trademark Office’s original ruling canceled six federal trademark registrations of the Redskins, by a 2-1 majority vote, calling the football team’s nickname “disparaging to Native Americans” and ignoring previous precedent.

The wording is key because “disparaging” is a lot easier to prove than “racist,” which quite simply would mean the Redskins organization believes a particular race is superior to Native Americans.

Even hard-line opponents of the nickname — at least the logical ones — really don’t believe that. Hence the low-hanging fruit of “disparaging” which certainly can be argued and perhaps proven.

Generally when people refer to others in particular ethic groups with disparaging or racial slurs, they are trying to be derogatory and hurtful. In this case, however, the Redskins perspective is that a football team turned what was created by whites as a racially insensitive word toward Native Americans into anything but.

And to be fair, there isn’t even a hint of animus behind Snyder’s continued use of the nickname or his team’s fans in embracing it. However it started, the term is now a revered and celebrated part of the capital’s culture.

Conversely, the opposition can correctly counter that none of that changes the history of the word itself, which was certainly disparaging.

From a legal perspective the Redskins will still hold their trademarks under state law even after a potential loss in the Supreme Court but bootleggers would be free to sell black market ‘Skins merchandise without fear of federal reprisal, something that would surely catch the eye of the NFL, which to this point has staunchly defended Snyder despite the rising tide to change the nickname.

“Daniel Snyder might be the last person in the world to realize this, but it is just a matter of time until he is forced to do the right thing and change the name,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said last year when USPTO originally ruled.

Reid is hardly a go-to guy in the realm of race relations after once describing now-deceased ex-Klansman Robert Byrd, along with Ted Kennedy, as “the greatest living Americans,” and getting excoriated by claiming President Barack Obama’s success was helped by the fact he was a “light-skinned” African American with no “Negro dialect.”

Winners write that history, however, and Reid and his supporters are already penning the epilogue in this controversy.

And the irony is plainly evident … intolerance is busy steamrolling what it perceives to be intolerant.

— You can reach JF McMullen at jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also listen to John weekly on YAHOO! Sports Radio, YSR Indianapolis, ESPN Atlantic City, ESPN Lexington, Omaha’s The Zone and ESPN Southwest Florida.

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