It’s not a new debate in the world of sports. And it’s a reinvigorated debate in the world of PR.
Should the NFL team in Washington D.C. change its offensive name? Granted, to many people in the nation’s capital, the “Washington Redskins” may not be an offensive term because they are sports homers. That’s to be expected.
And then, there’s Daniel Synder, owner of the team and principle emeritus officer of living in la-la land.
This is a team that carries an 80-year tradition of classic football has always carried this cloud over its headdress. And why? Because that’s the way it’s always been? Try again, because history has just corrected that very sentiment — back from the dead.
The year was 1932, and this guy — one George Preston Marshall — wanted to purchase a football team. He was on the east coast, so he was thinking Boston. The team was dubbed “The Boston Braves.”
Catchy, right? One problem — there was another team in town with the same name that played baseball. Sure, the team began as the Red Stockings, then the Beaneaters, and eventually the Braves (which would later call Atlanta its home), but that got Marshall thinking of brand equity.
And so, the theory was born — one that Daniel Snyder boasts to this day (in a recent letter to season ticket holders defending his refusal to recognize the bigotry): On that inaugural Redskins team, four players and our Head Coach were Native Americans. The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.
So, the “Redskins” were born. Only it seems that story is now debunked thanks to Mr. Marshall resurrecting one last talking point.
That is an article from the Hartford Courant dated July 5, 1933. As you can see, George Preston Marshall’s own words admits there was no history and tradition to the NFL name. It was basically a last-ditch effort to save a logo. He had a certain look. Boston had the Red-Sox, so why not?
And this has created the last clap of thunder in what has already been a tumultuous ess-storm for Daniel Synder and his PR efforts to save the team name. Ostensibly, Snyder’s hopes to keep this name on his team is the equivalent of a historic building manager saying, “Yeah, let’s keep those water fountains separate. It’s history and people don’t think that way any longer.”
Would there ever be a team called the Washington N-words? No, because there was a certain movement in the 1960s that educated the greater part of backwoods country bumpkins out there. What about the Washington Crackers? Nope, because Capitol Hill already looks like a box of Saltines, if you see what I’m saying.
Just because any tribe, clan, or activist group on behalf of Native Americans has not mustered enough PR power to say “Chiefs make us sound proud. Braves make us sound strong. Redskins make us sound like a group targeted for hate.” This doesn’t mean they should not be heard.
For decency sake, not to mention a truckload of PR brownie points, this should completely force the NFL into a corner, right? And it’s not like there hasn’t already been attempts to help from the creative community. So, as you look below, imagine yourself cheering for the same team, just different laundry. And possibly, we can begin to stop offending so many people that have been offended for long before 1933.
(H/T Yahoo! Sports, 2013)