Rush Limbaugh and the NFL

So it looks like Rush Limbaugh won't be an NFL team owner after all, due in part to the outcry from players, the public, and even some other team owners. But before the NFL throws its shoulder out of joint patting itself on the back for having rebuffed Rush and his often racist rhetoric, let's remember that the NFL has a racism problem of its own.

This is the logo for the second most valuable team in the NFL right now, the one located in the nation's capital, and it's highly offensive. The term "redskin" is, for Native Americans, the equivalent of the n-word. This isn't like other team names that evoke Native Americans--Braves, Indians, Chiefs, Seminoles--though some Native American groups have often objected to those as well. This is a derogatory word, a throwback to a time when casual racism was, well, casual, and it's long past time that the NFL mandated a change in the team name.

There's not even an economic reason to fight the change--sales of new merchandise would be incredible as people moved to support the new name, and there would no doubt be a market in "vintage" merchandise as well. Sure, there would be some pushback--there always is when social change takes place--but the result would be a net good.

One group that could help make this happen is sports reporters, both in newspapers and on television. If they refused to use the word, if they only referred to the Washington team as Washington (which I do and have done for quite some time on this blog), the name would lose some of its current cachet, and changing it wouldn't be a big deal, especially if the reporters acknowledged why they were doing it.

Part of the reason for the lack of movement on this has no doubt to do with the lack of visibility that Native American groups suffer as a tiny minority. They're not a large part of the population, and their populations tend to be concentrated, so their already limited political power is diffused even more. But that's no excuse--if the NFL wouldn't have a team named the Wetbacks or the Spics or Gooks, it shouldn't have a team named the Redskins. It's offensive, and it's long past time that the team changed its name.

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