NFL Week 6 recap: Native Americans should drive ‘Redskins’ debate

Rob Woodfork,

WASHINGTON – Let me be completely honest: For months, I’ve tried to avoid writing about the debate surrounding the Washington Redskins nickname. Not out of a fear of some sort of backlash, but because I find it extraordinarily difficult to truly quantify how offensive this specific term is — especially when I’m one of the few who falls in that wide gap between those who either love or abhor the word.

I realized I had to get off the fence when NBC’s Bob Costas weighed in on the ongoing debate during halftime of the ‘Skins’ Sunday Night game against the Dallas Cowboys. If you missed it, you can see his comments in their entirety here. Suffice it to say, he’s among the growing number of people who want to see it go.

Though I didn’t fully agree with his two-minute speech, I did take slight umbrage with this portion: “Think for a moment about the term ‘redskins’ and how it differs from all the others.” Most of the viewers that night weren’t Native American. Chances are, the vast majority of people within the sound of Costas’ voice haven’t studied the term or seen it outside of the context of the football team.

Therein lies my biggest problem with this topic: There’s too much extraneous noise. I’ve had difficulty piecing together a well-informed opinion because the two loudest voices to date have been those of fans of the team who love the name and want to keep it no matter what, and non-Native Americans with an agenda vocalizing outrage in the name of a people who probably wouldn’t show up on their radar otherwise.

I’m still not all that sure how much outrage lies within the Native American community as a whole. We’ve heard quite a bit from the Oneida Indian Nation in recent months, but there are still several other voices that are either indifferent or silent when it comes to this topic.

I got a kick out of this publication’s debate. There are several solid points on both sides of the argument, including the allegation that one of the driving forces behind this controversy has less to do with the betterment of the Native American plight and more to do with “cheap moral preening.”

Whether you believe a study done by Ives Goddard — senior linguist in the anthropology department of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (which I assume makes him smart) — that reveals the term “redskin” to be largely benign based on its history, or the notion that the name is an ugly stain on an already sordid American history, chances are yours is not the voice we need to hear.

To me, the only way a truly meaningful resolution can be achieved is if there’s a serious dialog between representatives from multiple Native American communities, the NFL and Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Anything less seems moot.

Given Snyder’s well-publicized disinterest in changing the name on his own accord, there’s no easy solution here. If it were my call to make, I’d go with one of two options: A) start fresh with a red, white and blue scheme and change the name to something far more innocuous (such as “Americans,” as my friend and colleague Clinton Yates wrote in The Washington Post), or B) alter the fight song, change the name to something like “Warriors,” and revert back to the uniforms with the spear logo from the 1965-69 era (think the throwbacks from the team’s 70th anniversary season). The latter seems like a fine compromise, given that the team and its fans would keep their tradition largely intact while any offended Native Americans are spared further embarrassment.

If the change does come, I just hope the effort doesn’t end there. As spelled out here, there are several other offenders that don’t generate nearly as much debate. If the Redskins have to change, so too should the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs and Florida State Seminoles.

Furthermore, should any people be “mascots”? Why not do away with the Fighting Irish, the Yankees, the Vikings and yes … the Cowboys. All are either derogatory terms or feed into negative stereotypes.

I’ll readily admit such a change in Washington would be bittersweet for me. I grew up wearing the colors, going to games and belting out “Hail to the Redskins,” and the logo has been a source of pride in recognizing my own small sliver of Native American heritage.

But this debate isn’t about the Redskins Nation in burgundy and gold. It’s definitely not about me, Bob Costas, Rick Reilly or any other men tossing their 2 cents in on a topic that doesn’t necessarily directly affect them.

This is about a nation already done wrong by the current establishment and about a people that should be writing this narrative. For once, Native Americans should be doing the driving instead of being taken along for the ride.

Ok, enough of that serious stuff … let’s recap Week 6:

Giants 21
Bears 27

Not to belabor the point, but the New York Giants are mind-numbingly and historically bad. The last time they were 0-6 was in 1976. This season, Eli Manning has thrown 15 interceptions, with eight of them in the fourth quarter. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them become the equivalent of the 1996- 97 Spurs … suck enough to grab a high pick and draft a future Hall of Famer. Start printing those “Down for Clowney” T-shirts, Giants fans.

Bengals 27
Bills 24 (OT)

Thad Lewis went out and carved up the same Cincinnati defense that held Tom Brady out of the end zone last week. Could there be a QB controversy brewing in Buffalo?

Lions 31
Browns 17

Cleveland is 0-3 with Brandon Weeden starting. Is he that bad or is it possible that Brian Hoyer is the league MVP?

Raiders 7
Chiefs 24

The catalyst for this KC resurgence is the defense. Take Sunday for example: 10 sacks, three takeaways and a touchdown. Yes, it’s Oakland … but the Chiefs D hasn’t looked this good since the days of Derrick Thomas.

Panthers 35
Vikings 10

As a father, I can’t fathom what Adrian Peterson is going through. The outcome of the game doesn’t matter … just the act of playing Sunday is commendable. Condolences to him and his family through this unspeakably tough time.


Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings and Mike Mitchell of the Carolina Panthers speak after the game Sunday in Minneapolis. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Steelers 19
Jets 6

Sorry Pittsburgh … this is probably the template for what few victories you get this season: ugly.

Eagles 31
Bucs 20

Michael Vick may not be worried about his job, but he should be after seeing what Nick Foles has done the last two weeks.

Packers 19
Ravens 17

In one of the great ironies of 2013, nobody in the AFC North seems capable of running the ball. Baltimore better remedy that if they don’t want to continue their collision course with an 8-8 season.

Rams 38
Texans 13

To the Houston fans who cheered Matt Schaub getting injured: Be careful what you wish for. The backup throws touchdowns to the other team, too.

Oh, and for those keeping count … that’s five straight games with a pick-six for Houston. Has anyone printed any Texans “Pick 6 and 10” T-shirts to combine their propensity for giving up defensive touchdowns with their estimated win/loss total?

Jaguars 19
Broncos 35

Ok, so Denver didn’t hit its historic 28-point spread. But isn’t it pretty impressive to play your worst game of the season and still win by 16?

Titans 13
Seahawks 20

Much like Denver, Seattle is winning games despite sloppy play. Not aesthetically pleasing, but a good omen for the stretch run … especially with the Niners coming back to life.

Saints 27
Patriots 30

Good for you, Boston. Two walk-off wins at home on the same day. Tom Brady needed this more than Big Papi, though. Considering the way Brady’s last two Super Bowl appearances ended, it’s easy to forget this guy has 32 come-from-behind wins to his credit.

Cardinals 20 Niners 32 Keep on eye on the rematch between these two teams in Week 17. I have a feeling San Fran is going to remember Tyrann Mathieu’s extra curricular tackle in the end zone toward the end of the game.

Redskins 16
Cowboys 31

This is the story of the ‘Skins’ season: Just as it appears the defense is getting its act together, special teams springs a leak and essentially gives Dallas 14 points in a game the Redskins would lose by 15. Regardless of what you call them, it’s going to be a long season in Washington.

Colts 9
Chargers 19

I could address the premature anointing of Andrew Luck here, but I won’t. I’ll instead tip my cap to his top target, Reggie Wayne, for becoming the eighth player in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes. Wayne is truly one of the most underrated receivers in the game.

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