Panel debates Washington Redskins’ name controversy

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A former Washington Redskins player defended the team’s name during a panel discussion about the name controversy Monday night.

Ray Schoenke played for the team in the 1960s and ’70s and is part Native Hawaiian. At the panel sponsored by the University of Maryland’s Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism, he said he thought the Redskins should keep their name, and the league should use it to raise significant money to help Native Americans in need.

Also, he said that team owner Dan Snyder needs to make a real commitment beyond easy fixes such as playgrounds.

Before the discussion, Schoenke, who last week was voted into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame, said there are economic benefits with the team’s name.

“The NFL is one of the most powerful economic entities in this country. And they are vested in this name. And so if they share that power with the Native American Indians, they’ll go a long way in changing the economic conditions on the reservations,” Schoenke said.

USA TODAY columnist Christine Brennan stopped using the name last year.

“It took me a while, because here I covered the team in ’85, ’86 and ’87 and I said that name tens of thousands of times,” she said later. “And yet it took all this time for me to realize that it’s just a horrible name, and it’s a name that I did not want to use anymore.”

Brennan said she believes the name will change.

“I think just the march of history here is working towards that, and in many ways it reminds me of what happened with the membership of women at Augusta National Golf Club,” Brennan said. “I wrote my first column on that issue asking why there were no women members back In 1999. In 2012, I was able to break the news of the first two female members at Augusta National. So that, door to door, was 13 years. That seems about right in this case, maybe even less time. I think within the next five years the name will change.”

Washington Post Columnist Mike Wise says the interest and momentum point to a name change.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of if anymore, I think it’s a matter of when. [It will happen in] two years if Dan Snyder wants to lower his guard, and three to five years if he wants to lose money and eventually lose more of his fan base’s interest. That’s one of the things — I think the fan base is getting fatigued by it,” he said before the panel.

Brennan and Wise say they think the “Washington Warriors” would make a good replacement name.

“Dan Snyder could actually donate 10 percent of the new merchandise paraphernalia to the wounded warriors in the first year, he would be a hero. People would say this guy’s a hero,” Wise added.

Also, the panel included Tara Houska, founder of the group “Not Your Mascot,” Channel 9 sports commentator Dave Owens and ESPN 570 & 980 commentator Andy Pollin.

Houska, who is Native American, said of the name, “Would you call me that to my face?”

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