WASHINGTON — The NFL schedule was released Thursday night to entirely too much fanfare, and perhaps you’ve heard the news by now. The league, in its infinite wisdom, decided to give the Washington Redskins a home game, in our nation’s capital, for the very first time…on Thanksgiving Day.
That’s right: Rather than simply continue the long-standing tradition of games in Dallas and Detroit, our most publicly self-defeating sports league decided it hadn’t stepped on enough rakes in recent weeks. I shouldn’t have to break down the fundamental reason that this is a terrible idea, but let’s go ahead and do that anyway.
The name “Redskins” is, at best, an outdated term for the Native American population. At worst, it’s a racial epithet, a constant reminder of the way history books have been framed to paint the native population as uncivilized, a continued denigration of one of America’s least-represented minorities, whose voice is drowned out in the ongoing Great Name Debate.
Thinking that now was the perfect time to have a team named the Redskins play in Washington (well, Landover) for the first time on national television — on the holiday meant to celebrate kinship with Native Americans — is a good idea is either the most distilled form of obliviousness or downright malice.
This comes, of course, on the heels of last year’s Turkey Day matchup between the Redskins and Cowboys in Dallas — just the second such game in the past 14 seasons — which was already pushing the boundaries of good taste. At least we won’t get Cowboys vs. Indians in Washington this fall.
But just because we don’t have the added indignity of that matchup, doesn’t mean this isn’t already leaps and bounds more problematic than last year’s game. To not understand that it’s going to be way worse — with rowdy fans sticking feathers in their heads and wiping “war paint” on their faces, chugging beers in the parking lot and screaming into cameras for B-roll shots to be used coming out of commercial breaks — is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the insensitive NFL.
Hopefully, I don’t need to remind you that we’re only a year-and-a-half removed from this tweet, which sparked instant outrage by its mere existence.
Wishing you and your family a Happy #Thanksgiving. pic.twitter.com/qI3U7hbGhK
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) November 26, 2015
No matter where you stand on the name debate, I think we can all agree that this will be taken by those who vehemently oppose it as an incredibly disrespectful and needless affront. Whether or not you personally are offended, the move to play this game here on Thanksgiving is, without a doubt, mindless.
I can’t wait to see what the broadcast tandem who gets stuck calling this lemon decides to do: wrestle with the historical atrocities they’re whitewashing in an earnest attempt for context or ignore them altogether. I don’t envy their position either way. It’s not their fault they’ve been thrown into this mess, but they’ll likely shoulder at least some of the blame, depending on how they handle it.
Mind you, this is a debate that — at least as far as most football fans are concerned — the team and the NFL are winning. They’ve followed the PR textbook the past year or so and let the yelling voices die, no longer pushing the Redskins Facts Twitter account (which mercifully hasn’t tweeted since December 2015) and just allowing time and space to do the work for them.
This move is taking a nearly dormant hornet’s nest and drop-kicking it, just because you can. I promise you the reaction from the groups opposed to the name will be strong, and that they will be in full force for the game itself, which will be the lone game broadcast nationally in its time slot.
If whoever is running @Redskins two years ago thought that Turkey Day was rough, I hope they’re at least getting holiday overtime for the backlash they’re going to deal with from this fall thanks to another asinine idea from the league.