Redskins forever? A lesson from the Bullets

The son of the former Wizards owner speaks out about the Redskins name.
If the Bullets can change, so can the Redskins

Noah Frank | November 15, 2014 10:26 am

WASHINGTON — The SB Nation blog for the Washington Wizards is called Bullets Forever. It’s an homage to the team’s old nickname, an understandably nostalgic tip of the hat to the franchise’s golden years.

If Robert Pollin, son of former Wizards owner Abe Pollin and professor of econmics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, has his way, perhaps the Redskins name will follow suit — memorialized for the shrinking faction who continue to support it.

Pollin spoke to WTOP on Tuesday about the Washington Redskins name controversy and the social responsibility that comes with professional sports team ownership.

“My father’s view [was] that he really had a community resource and it was up to him to really manage that community resource in a way that was respectful to the community and Dan Snyder should feel the same way,” Pollin says.

He reasons while there may be Native Americans who are not offended by the team name, most of them are.

“We need to show respect to people. You know the world has moved forward and standards are changed. And what we need to do to respect different communities in our society has risen. Dan Snyder needs to recognize that.”

His advice to Snyder?

“You had a point but … just admit you’re wrong,” he says, adding at the same time his love for the team.

“I, myself have been a massive Redskins fan. We named my brother after two Redskins players — quarterback Eddie LeBaron and the halfback Jim Podoley … That was my suggestion and my father was also such a Redskins fan that he actually took my suggestion. My mother was nice enough to go along with us and that’s my brother’s name, James Edward Pollin, after two Redskins.”

In a piece penned for the Washington Post, Pollin asked Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to learn from the mistakes Pollin’s father made in resisting change for his team’s name as long as he did. He framed the delicate position Snyder has created for himself as an “opportunity to surprise us and demonstrate his true grit.” Pollin adds he doesn’t know Dan Snyder personally.

Pollin suggests that doing so would create a new wave of support for the Washington football team. While it’s difficult to say whether a name change would create many new fans, case can be made that such a move could lead to great financial gains.

Will another moral appeal have any sway on Snyder? Will it make a difference coming from a self-described lifelong Redskins fan, one who saw up close the ramifications of changing a long-held D.C.-area sports name?

Mike Prada, editor of Bullets Forever, said he believes that Pollin’s voice indeed carries more weight.

“The point [Pollin] made is that nobody should be so prideful as to dig your toes in the sand about a team name, and he knows from personal experience,” Prada wrote via email.

So, if the name changes, will we ever see a similarly tribute-based “Redskins Forever” blog?

“I can’t speak to renaming the site,” Prada said of Hogs Haven, the SB Nation page devoted to the Redskins. “I’m sure we’d never allow a site name that included the team’s current name in it.”

Prada also pointed out that while Bullets carries a negative connotation, “it is not a racial slur like the Washington professional football team’s name.”

As was revealed in the results from a recent Heart + Mind Strategies study, overall sentiment has shifted more in favor of a name change over the past year, but those who self-identify as Redskins fans have become more entrenched in their support.

“I imagine there will be a group of fans who will feel nostalgic towards that nickname,” said Prada. “That group already exists, to be honest.”

Pollin adds if fans are fans, they will get over a name change. “Let’s do something that is respectful to other communities and at the same time, everyone can love the team. There’s not going to be a problem.”

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