Protestors, some dressed in traditional Native American garb, descended upon the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday to denounce the nickname of Washington’s NFL team. The people wearing horned helmets and wielding giant mallets showed up in Minneapolis to cheer on the Minnesota Vikings. Go figure.
The demonstration attracted about 1,500 people, including U.S. Representatives Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum, comedian Dick Gregory, and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. Most of the 53,000 spectators inside the stadium also objected to the Redskins, albeit for altogether different reasons. Signs offered by the spectacle (not to be confused with the spectators) advanced such placard wisdom as “No Honor in Genocide,” “This Paint Is Red, My Skin Is Not,” “Punt Your Logo,” and “No More Double Standards for Racism.”
Isn’t that last one just the point?
Far from finding an insult in “Vikings,” the descendants of Europe’s Norsemen residing in Minnesota take pride in their NFL team’s nickname. Fans of the San Diego Padres, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Vancouver Canucks, New York Yankees, and University of Louisiana Rajin’ Cajuns similarly don’t take to the streets in anger over those ethically-based nicknames. “No More Double Standards for Racism” would seem to apply to the protestors as much as the protested.
To be sure, the Washington Redskins isn’t the only team to face the wrath of the sandwich-board crowd. Some of the same people who protested the Redskins in Minneapolis on Sunday protested the Atlanta Braves when they faced the Minnesota Twins during the 1991 World Series. Then, like now, nobody–not Zan and Jayna, not Mary Kate and Ashley, and not that dissimilar-looking trio from the ’80s that sang “Hold Me Now”–showed up to remonstrate over the perceived affront to their group embodied by the home team’s name.
But a few thousand, encouraged by the griping of University of Minnesota administrators, bemoaned the 82-year-old team’s nickname in Minneapolis yesterday. The Redskins, perhaps affected by all the bad karma (wrong Indians?), crashed the team bus before crashing out against the Minnesota Vikings. The team dropped to 3-6 in the 29-26 loss.
When do Redskins fans join Redskins foes in protesting the team?
Crazy Horse and Cochise and King Phillip may or may not frown upon the last-place team borrowing their imagery. Sammy Baugh and George Allen surely do.
Dan Snyder, the human target–so much as there is one–of the angry activists, strangely benefits from the attacks. Redskins fans, a once-proud people, have watched their team win just two postseason games since Snyder bought the team in 1999. What had been one of the league’s most successful franchises in the 1970s, ’80s, and early ’90s, has become under Snyder’s stewardship a league laughingstock. Yet fans circle the wagons as a result of the attacks and fill FedEx Field to watch, presumably, the ghosts of Redskins past. Forbes values the team at $2.4 billion, good for third highest in the league.
For longer than the Redskins have been horrible, their detractors have offered horrible arguments to shame the team into changing its name. The activists have actually performed worse in the court of public opinion than the Redskins have on the field of play. A September ESPN Outside the Lines poll reports that 71 percent of Americans–support significantly higher than enjoyed by any of the presidents who have cheered the team on–want the Redskins to keep the name.
But like so many loud, opinionated people, the protestors don’t stop to listen as they talk and chant and yell. The demonstrators sought to persuade Sunday through such tired mantras as “Hey hey, ho ho/The racist name has got to go” and “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!” Yawn.
Americans want to change the subject, not the name.