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Facts and logic say rename Redskins [Letter]

NFLPatents, Copyrights and TrademarksU.S. CongressWashington Redskins

Can we get real about the name of Washington's NFL team? The team — and letter writers to The Sun — have tossed around "facts" that are not factual and "logic" that is not logical ("Who could be offended by Redskins' name?" June 24).

Claim: The team website says there are 70 high schools that use the nickname and a letter writer to The Sun claimed that many Native American high schools are among them ("Specter of 'Big Brother' hovers over Redskins name protest," June 24).

Fact: Capital News Service, working from a list on the NFL team's website and a 1991 USA Today survey, contacted all the high schools that purportedly use that nickname. They found 62 high schools in the nation still using that nickname, 40 percent of which are seeing efforts to change it. One of those school boards has already voted to drop the name and seven others will soon join the 28 high schools that have done so in the last 25 years. Only three of the high schools are majority American Indian, one of which is only 57 percent. And even this is not diapositive. Some African-American men call one another the N-word, but does this make it an acceptable NFL nickname?

Claim: "There have been investigators who have talked with the Native Americans, and they don't have a problem with the name." And: "We have yet to see a large and concerted protest by Native Americans to makes this change."

Fact: The National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation of New York have led a Change The Mascot campaign. At least 22 Indian nations or inter-tribal councils have condemned the nickname. At least 60 American Indian organizations from the National Indian Child Welfare Association to the National Congress of American Indians have publicly opposed the nickname. And it has been condemned by individuals from author Sherman Alexie (Spokane) to Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills (Sioux) to director of the National Museum of the American Indian Kevin Gover (Pawnee). As the founding director of that Smithsonian museum, W. Richard West Jr. (Cheynne and Arapaho), said, It is "an openly derogatory term; it always is and it always has been."

Faulty logic: A letter writer says: "The vast majority of Americans, when hearing the 'R-word,' simply think of the football team and place no deeper meaning to it. That certainly cannot be said of the N-word."

Logic: The first sentence is undoubtedly true but only because the vast majority of Americans have far greater exposure to the NFL than to American Indians. If there were an NFL team nicknamed the N-word, at least some people would think of the football team when hearing the word. That, however, does not make such a team name any less unthinkable.

Faulty logic: The team and its fans honor American Indians with its name.

Logic: I accept that they honestly think they do, but that does not change what professional golfer Notah Begay (Navajo) calls "a very clear example of institutionalized degradation of an ethnic minority." Would Dan Snyder, owner of the team, feel honored if a team and its fans truly loved a nickname that degraded his ethnicity?

Faulty logic: A letter writer calls the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruling voiding the team's trademark and Congressional involvement "Big Brother at its finest."

Logic: The Patent Office has long had a rule against trademarking disparaging terms. And Congress, as the writer may recall, passed something called the Civil Rights Act to address racism. To borrow a phrase from the nickname's defenders, these are honorable traditions.

Terry Shepard, Baltimore

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To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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NFLPatents, Copyrights and TrademarksU.S. CongressWashington Redskins
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    I have a suggestion concerning the Redskins debate ("Facts and logic say rename Redskins," June 27), and I invite that football team to consider my little game.

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    Wikipedia notes that although the connotation of the term Redskins is debatable, the term is defined in current dictionaries of American English as "usually offensive, disparaging, insulting, and taboo" ("Facts and logic say rename Redskins," June 27).

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