History Repeats Itself: Snyder Carries On Racist Tradition in D.C.

In today’s politically correct climate, it is becoming more and more apparent that the Washington Redskins organization should change its team name. The team nickname “Redskins” was originally created in an outdated era of American history when racial epithets were socially acceptable. Former Redskins owner and noted racist George Preston Marshall came up with the team nickname in 1933. Marshall was so flamboyantly racist that he did not begin signing African-American players until 1962 even though the NFL began integrating the league with black players as far back as 1946. Marshall was forced to soften his stance on the exclusion of blacks and other minority players when the government threatened to cancel the Redskins’ 30-year lease on the team’s previous stadium (RFK Memorial Stadium) if he continued this practice.

Despite the recent public outcry, current Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has sworn never to change the name of his team. Much like his predecessor Marshall, Snyder is using similarly archaic reasoning as to why he refuses to budge on a racially insensitive issue regarding his organization’s very name. In Marshall’s case, his rationale for not signing minority players was so that his team would be more appealing to Redskins fans who lived in the historically racist southern region of the United States. In Snyder’s case, he is unwilling to compromise because he clings to the notion that the name “Redskins” symbolizes the deep tradition and rich history of the franchise. Given the not so glorious history and business practices of past Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, is that a tradition and history really worth honoring?

As a heartless, money grubbing owner who operates without a conscience, every business decision ever made by Dan Snyder has been dictated by the mighty dollar. From being the first NFL team to ever charge fans for watching training camp practices, to adding additional parking fees onto the purchase price of event tickets even if the consumer does not park on-site at FedEx Field, it is clear that Snyder does not give a hoot about alienating his fan base, so why would he change now? Public sentiment alone does not matter to Snyder. The only way Snyder would change his team’s nickname is if the economic viability of his product was directly threatened. The first major step in economically threatening Snyder’s product was made by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as they cancelled the Redskins’ trademark registration on June 18th. Predictably, Snyder decided to appeal this decision, so this could drag on for a lengthy period before a resolution is found.

On the surface, this issue would be very easy to solve if Snyder actually had a heart. Many quality team nicknames are available that would be less offensive and still keep the Native-American theme alive in D.C. Going back to the original team name which was the Braves would be suitable, or honoring the successful tradition of Florida State football by re-naming Washington’s team the Seminoles would also suffice. These monikers are much different than the term “Redskins” because Native-Americans are actually proud to refer to themselves by these names. Not to mention, there would be new merchandising opportunities for fans to indulge in if the team name was changed. That alone should be enough to pique the interest of owner Snyder.

There are distinct and striking similarities between former Redskins owner George Preston Marshall and current owner Daniel Marc Snyder. Both were pompous and unapologetic with their racially insensitive stances, and both were hard-headed and resistant to change with the times. In Marshall’s case, he had to be forced to change his racist company policy or else he would have suffered a huge financial consequence. I believe similar pressure must be applied to Snyder if any change to the Redskins team name is to occur. Although these two men are separated by almost 70 years from the time that they purchased the Redskins franchise, they are cut from the same cloth if you ask me.