I received a plaintive request from a gentleman named Bill Ade in early September. He is a Christian who grew up at a time when and in a place where people who were different than the almost homogeneous community were called by names and presumed to be "less-than." After briefly recounting the lessons of his lifetime about race, religion and ethnicity, he got to the point.
The point is the name of Washington's beloved professional football team. He thinks it should be changed.
(True fans, of course, call their team "beloved" no matter their current record, for example, "the beloved Chicago Cubs.")
The name is offensive. You might argue with me about whether the name offends you, but that's like someone who is not Jewish trying to persuade you that "jew you down" doesn't mean anything about you personally. The extremely uncomfortable question is this: is it offensive enough?
And what do I mean by that? In spite of the hype and the money and everything else, this controversy is about a game. Professional sports, especially football, baseball and hockey, remain the last places in our society in which certain forms of discrimination are hallowed. On the field and on the sidelines, it remains difficult to impossible for people of certain backgrounds to represent, never mind succeed. And it remains curious to me that after tens of thousands of men have qualified to play these sports, not a solitary woman has developed the physical prowess or management ability to participate. If that kind of overt discrimination is excused because it is "just a game," are we able to point at one team name or logo among others - Braves, Saints, Canucks, etc. - that resonate ethnically, religiously or otherwise and say that Washington's fans are the most egregious?
Obviously, I have pretty much ignored this question during the thirty years of my adult life that I have lived in the Metro area. But we live in a different world. As kids, we thought nothing of calling someone a homo or a retard or a dork (look it up). And while I am certain that in our Commonwealth there are still some folks who believe "nigra" is a step forward, an African American child has never known a United States with anything but an African American President, and that kind of normal demands a comparable standard of language.
The name has to go. Abe Pollin had less reason to give up "Bullets," and he was applauded for it. Let's just hope we get a better new name than the basketball team received.
I am willing to compromise if Tony Kornheiser's suggestion is acceptable. Years ago, he suggested changing the mascot to the Redskin Potato. Hail to the Tubers! Hail to the Spuds! Mash our opponents; turn them into duds!