The Redskins: Stuck between Anger, Vengeance, and Loss

June 20, 2014 | Civic Engagement, Dialogue, Diversity & Inclusion

In the wake of the latest Redskin’s saga, the US Trademark board ruled against the Washington Redskin’s name.  While die-hard Redskins fans are outraged, the long-term repercussions of the Board’s actions are of little monetary significance to the NFL team. That said, it doesn’t make the ruling any less of a blow. The implications are clear: the backlash to the team’s “offensive” name continues to gain momentum.

Perhaps I am just over-sensitive, but there has been something about the renewed backlash that has me unsettled.  Everyday for the past year the debate has been growing on social media and in the news.  There is a palpable, and to some extent, irrational anger growing amongst both groups– leaving little to no room for dialogue. But that is just what is needed–a dialogue. As long as the Redskins remain closed to the idea of publicly addressing the issues, they are adding fuel to the media fire.

Case and point, this past May when Senator Harry Reid publicly boycotted the Redskins through a series of theatrical speeches and letters.  Sure, the Senator has every right to boycott whatsoever he chooses.  In fact, his core motives are considered by many to be very admirable. The problem is that his actions are, by definition, vengeful because the Senator is seeking to equalize punishment for the perceived offense by financially hurting the institution until they submit to changing the franchise name.

Let me be clear:  Senator Reid has done nothing wrong. I am not a fan of the team’s name either, but to act out of vengeance carries with it the potential for continued instability. It’s a downward spiral—trapping both sides of the argument into a cycle of escalated fighting and revenge.  This is problematic.  Vengeance, while starting out of the desire for justice, almost always fails to restore what was initially destroyed.  And in this case, it is the respect of an entire group of people – Native Americans.

So what should be done? 

Given the work that TMI Consulting does, I am time and again asked where I stand on the issue by fans looking to get into some kind of a debate.  Normally I shrug off the mocking with a short disinterested answer. I don’t want to waste my energy arguing with someone who isn’t the least bit open to what I have to say. A dialogue is what is needed. I mean, let’s be honest, the argument that the backlash to the name is something new is laughable. The slur has been around for centuries. And while I would like to think that the renewed backlash is a result of increased cultural sensitivity and awareness, the realist in me thinks that the only thing that has truly changed is technology and the ease for mass mobilized action.

Truthfully, until everyone stops giving in to their emotions, the cycle of anger and vengeance will continue. And while the ideal world is of course equal dignity and respect for the opinions and needs of both sides of any argument, if the past 30 years are an indication, that is not likely.

Until a dialogue happens, and mutual understanding occurs, anger and vengeance will continue.  Someone will eventually lose the argument/fight.  And to the detriment of the Redskins, those fighting for the name change financially have little to lose.

So Dear D.C./Virginia Football Team: I wish more than anything that you can find that space—that small space that exists between vengeance and loss. That space will lead to the day when no corrective action is required of you, and when all fans will support your amazing, and inclusive, football team.