By Hazel Trice Edney
(Trice Edney Wire) – The editor-publisher of the award-winning Richmond Free Press has announced his paper will no longer use the name ‘Redskins’ to describe Washington, D.C.’s professional football team because he says the name is racist, harkening to the historic torture and abuse of Native Americans.
“We want to make absolutely certain that the Free Press does not endorse or promote a totally unacceptable name. Also, it represents an opportunity to show that Washington, D.C. – the capital of the United States – is not riveted to the past and that Virginia is not riveted to the past. It’s an opportunity to move ahead and not to continue to encourage this take our nation back theme that the ultra conservatives have,” says Raymond H. Boone Sr. in an interview this week. “We should never become acclimated to the outrageous. And the Free Press is leading the expunging of this name so that it will not be a cause for people to find an unacceptable, racist unpatriotic name acceptable.”
Boone, who has a decades-long reputation as a force against racism in Virginia, announced his decision to drop the name in an editorial published in the Oct. 17-23 edition of the Free Press. He says the paper will only refer to the team as “the Washington professional football team.”
He wrote, “The Richmond Free Press is expunging the nickname of the Washington professional football team from its news and editorial columns. The reason: The nickname is insulting to Native Americans, racist and divisive. Plus, it promotes the spreading ugly Tea Party mentality that is growing in Virginia and the Nation’s Capital.”
The editorial continues, “Our use of the depraved nickname would only serve to cause people to become more acclimated to the outrageous. It would give a cause for the regeneration of the despicable N-word and other derogatory names given to other racial groups.”
Daniel Snyder, the owner of the team, has vowed not to change the name, claiming that 90 percent of Native Americans, including many Native American students, do not want to change the name and view it as a source of pride. However, the stance by the 21-year-old newspaper joins a rising chorus of voices against the name, from people and organizations that associate it with race hatred, bigotry and the “ethnic cleansing” mentality perpetuated by President Andrew Jackson and his Indian Removal Act of May 28, 1830 – among others.
Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, a 69-year-old organization that promotes itself as the oldest, largest and most representative organization of American Indians and Alaska natives, also reframes from using the term, “Redskins”.
Speaking on an Aug. 26 panel, “No Lie Can Live Forever,” sponsored by the Kellogg Foundation in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Pata said her community calls the team, “The Local Team”.
Responding to a question from the audience on whether the team’s name will eventually change 50 years past the civil rights anniversary, she says she believes there is definitely a movement toward it.
“I am feeling very optimistic because more and more voices of the people are stepping up,” Pata said. “I think it will get down to the economics of the owner who has definitely put his line in the sand. But, as the National Football League and as other sponsors of the team have started to urge the team to reconsider action, I think there is” the possibility.
Pata added that her organization would be happy to create “a winning opportunity for the fans” by helping “to come up with a name that is heroic and honorary and that we can all stand behind. I would love to be a part of that process and have an open invitation to do so.”
National Urban League President/CEO Marc Morial, also on the Kellogg panel, predicts the name change is inevitable.
“It will happen. It needs to happen. It’s time for it to happen,” he said. “When I watch the team, it goes through my mind, ‘Has the time just come for this image and for this name to be changed?’ This is the nation’s capital and its institutions – and the football team here is an institution – need to be standing with what’s best for the future of the nation. I think it’s just that simple.”
President Obama recently told the Associated Press that he would “think about changing” the team’s name if he was the owner.
Boone is emphatic and – based on his historic stances – will only escalate his campaign against the name. The Free Press has made statewide and national news on numerous occasions with its campaigns against racism, including a successful 1992 campaign to remove Confederate flag emblems from the planes and uniforms of the Virginia Air National Guard. More recently, he waged a successful campaign to open the door for photographers from Black newspapers as a part of the official press core of the Virginia Supreme Court.
The tone of his editorial hints he will not blink:
“…The football team’s current nickname is the modern-day version of the Washington football team’s white supremacist mentality,” he writes. “Most of its stars are African-Americans who hold a slave status, reporting to the team’s ultraconservative owner, Daniel Snyder. He vows he will ‘never’ change the rotten name … a name that stems from the scalping and butchering of Native Americans by bounty hunters.”
He concludes with another call for the name to be changed. “In the meantime, the Free Press, along with a growing number of opponents of the racist nickname, will not print it.”