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The Washington Football Team That Must Not Be Named

Jul 23, 2014
Originally published on July 23, 2014 7:51 am

Anybody who possesses a scintilla of good taste (and/or decency) is against the Washington football team using its longtime nickname. I don't have to scrounge for Brownie points by getting all indignant about it.

The one person who is most adamant about keeping the name is Daniel Snyder, who owns the Washington football franchise, and who appears to be either especially stubborn, or insensitive or both.

The obscene nickname is, of course, Redskins, and increasingly it's been suggested that we in the media should stop saying or writing it.

It's certainly an original proposition. We would, however, get tired of just hearing "Washington" all the time. Nicknames are such a useful alternative in sports. However, maybe we could say the "D.C.-ers" or the "Columbias" or even the "Snyderers." After all, the Cleveland team was named Browns after its coach, and even "Snyderers" is a nicer name than "Redskins." Well, barely.

Or, even better, we could all — not just the media, but everybody — take a lesson from the Bible. If you remember, the people wanted to build a tall tower up to heaven, but this displeased the Lord, so he made everybody talk in different languages. They couldn't communicate, so they had to stop building the tower, which was in a place called Babel — or, as some people now call it, the House of Representatives.

Anyway, I think rather than not calling the Redskins anything, we should all call them whatever we want. You might call them the "Federals" or the "Presidents" or the "Lobbyists" or whatever. You could call them the "Muskrats" or the "Skunks" or the "Nincompoops." You could call them the "Who" or the "Whatzits." You could call Mr. Snyder's team whatever your heart desires, except what Mr. Snyder wants. The team and the franchise would get lost in the chaos ... just like that tower.

To hear Frank Deford's commentary, click the audio link above.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And if your favorite amusement happens to be watching football, the season is just weeks away. The NFL teams are heading to training camp, and as they do, commentator Frank Deford wonders why one of them still retains a nickname that many people find abhorrent.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: All right. Anybody who possesses only a scintilla of good taste, and or decency, is against the Washington football team using its longtime nickname. I don't have to scrounge for brownie points by getting all indignant and telling you how opposed to it that I am too. But the one person who is most adamant about keeping the name is Daniel Snyder - who owns the Washington football franchise - and who appears to be either especially stubborn, or insensitive, or both. He certainly doesn't seem like a very nice man.

The commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, who does a very good job at making money for himself and his league, but who is a failure as the steward of the game, has put no public pressure on Snyder. Neither, it seems, have Snyder's fellow wealthy white owners, when it comes to your buddy - hear no evil, speak no evil, et cetera. As for people who patronize Mr. Snyder's team's games, they ought to be ashamed of themselves too. And, that's where it stands.

The patent office canceled its federal trademark registration of the name, but Snyder says he'll appeal. So that will presumably drag on forever.

OK, where do we go from here? The obscene nickname is of course, Redskins, and increasingly, it's been suggested that we in the media should stop writing the word or saying it. It's certainly an original proposition isn't it? We would however, get tired of just hearing Washington all the time.

Nicknames are such a useful alternative in sports. However, maybe we could say stuff like, the DCers, or the Columbias, or - hey - the Snyderers! After all, the Cleveland team was named Browns after its coach. And even Snyderers is nicer than Redskins. Well - barely.

Or, even better - we could all, not just the media but everybody, take a lesson from the Bible. If you remember, the people wanted to build a tall tower up to heaven, but this displeased the Lord. So he made everybody talk different languages, and they couldn't communicate. So they had to stop building that tower, which is at a place called Babel. Or as some people now call it, the House of Representatives.

Anyway, I think rather than not calling the Redskins anything, everybody should call them whatever they want. You might call the Redskins the Federals, or the Presidents, or the Lobbyists, or whatever. You could call them the Muskrats, or the Skunks, or the Nincompoops. You could call them the Who, or the Whatzits. Yes, you could call Mr. Snyder's team whatever your heart desires. Except you couldn't call them what Mr. Snyder wants; the team and the franchise would get lost in the chaos, just like that tower.

Myself, I am henceforth calling them the Washington Babels because I believe that at least this one time, I have the Lord on my side.

MONTAGNE: You can hear the comments of Frank Deford every Wednesday. And this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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That's who you are. I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.