American Opinion: Hail to the [TBD]!
Summary: Sports have a wonderful capacity to bring people and communities together. A change in the name of the Washington football team offers exciting new opportunities. As we wrote back in 1992, "We can do better."
"To say that the use of the term 'Redskins' is well-intentioned or that it is not meant to be objectionable sidesteps the real issue. This is not a term fashioned by American Indians. The nickname was assigned to them, just as the pejorative designation 'darkies' was once imposed on African American slaves. That was wrong then; this is wrong now. That the usage is common and innocently repeated out of habit makes it no less of an insensitive or insulting remark to those who are on the receiving end. We can do better."
That is what we wrote in March 1992 when we endorsed an effort by the District of Columbia Council to convince Washington's football franchise to change its name. Jack Kent Cooke, then owner of the team, didn't even deign to consider the matter. His successor, Daniel Snyder, dug in even further. "We'll never change the name," he said in 2013. "It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."
But the issue — as so often with matters of principle — never went away. "If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team — even if it had a storied history — that was offending a sizable group of people, I'd think about changing," said then-President Barack Obama in 2013.
In 2014 we told readers that we could no longer in good conscience continue to refer to the team by its racist name. "Every time the R-word is used," we wrote, "something disrespectful is happening." We understood that our colleagues in the Sports section had to continue covering the world as it was — that's what reporters do — but in this column, we had a choice. And we didn't want to contribute to the disrespect.
Now, finally, belatedly, there are grounds for wary optimism that we all may soon be able to call the team by its name — a new one that is devoid of hurt and insult, that all Washingtonians will be able to proudly embrace. Snyder announced on Friday that the team will undertake a "thorough review" of the team's name. That sounds like a recognition that the nation's sensibilities about what is acceptable, desirable or tolerable have been unalterably changed by the debate about racial and social equality sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Business partners, including FedEx and Nike, made clear the name needed to change. Political leaders made clear that Snyder's dream of building a new stadium in the District at the site of the old RFK Stadium depended on finding a new name. And maybe — who knows? — the owner began to have qualms about his all-caps intransigence.
Sports have a wonderful capacity to bring people and communities together. A change in the name of the Washington football team offers exciting new opportunities. As we wrote back in 1992, "We can do better."
This editorial is the opinion of The Washington Post's editorial board.