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Dear Dan Snyder, I’ve loved your team since before I could sing “Hail to the Redskins.” Born in D.C. to a lifetime season ticket holder, how could I not? I wore my first Art Monk jersey when I was two months old and got my first signed Joe Gibbs football when I was two years old. Even after moving to Kansas City when I was four, my room was just as full of Redskins memorabilia as it was Chiefs.
My Sundays, filled with Tomahawk Chops and “Hell yeah, ‘skins!”, were always better in the stands. FedEx field: home of the Redskins, home of the drunk white men in war paint and headdresses. Their cry, heard throughout the stadium, would ring over the beating drum:
Braves on the Warpath/Fight for old D.C.
This kind of not-so-subtle racism defined every aspect of Redskins culture, and I didn’t think anything of it. What else would you expect from a child?
But Mr. Snyder, you are not a child. You have no excuse. The term redskin has been used as a racial slur towards Native Americans for centuries. Etymologists believe the origin was referring to scalped Native American heads, which were used like a pelt for a bounty. In an 1863 Minnesota newspaper, the state announced a reward of $200 for “every red-skin sent to Purgatory.”
The fact that you still refuse to change this outdated slur of a name is ridiculous. You alone have the power to revise your team’s name, something the rest of the world has been asking you to do for years.
Mr. Snyder, even the U.S. government knows you are in the wrong.
The U.S. Patent Office stripped you and your Washington Redskins of six trademarks due to the disparaging nature of the word in a 2-1 ruling on June 18. Without these trademarks, you’ll lose millions. But what are millions when you have 1.1 billion?
In a 2013 USA Today Article, you reassured Redskins Nation that the name wasn’t racist after all, but was honoring Native Americans. Even though the opposition to the name from the Native American community is overwhelming, you claimed that no one you had talked to was offended, and that no one ever should be.
For years, Mr. Snyder, you used Blackie Wetzel, a Native American in favor of the name, as a poster-child for your cause. But it’s 2015. Time’s have changed, and now the Wetzel family is changing with them.
“Right now, anybody still fighting for it, [is] on the wrong side of history,” said Blackie’s grandson, Bill Wetzel, in an interview with the Washington Post.
That anybody, Mr. Snyder, is you. The connotation behind the word is not up to you.
Many fans who are in favor of keeping the name admit that it can be offensive to people. Yet they still argue that the name represents tradition, and why change an American tradition of football that’s been around for years?
Let’s be honest. Football is a game. No matter how hard I cheer, or how much the team means to its fan base, an 80 year tradition of grown men running around on a field doesn’t justify disparaging a proud people who endured unimaginable hardships.
What infuriates me the most, Mr. Snyder, about your refusal to change the name is that the name itself is inconsequential to your business. No fan will stop buying your jerseys, watching your games or loving your team if the name is changed. You may rile up a few fans, but you won’t see a boycott against the Redskins if you change your name; you may see one if you don’t.
So please, Mr. Snyder, for the love of football, just change the name. History will thank you later.
Yours truly, Robbie Veglahn