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Shirts and ‘Skins

All this talk of government shutdowns and debt ceilings and Obamacare and so forth has become as boring as it is depressing, so we set out on Tuesday in search of something else to write about. Despite our best efforts we caught just enough of the latest Washington news to learn that the apocalypse is scheduled for Thursday, when the passing of the phony-baloney default deadline lets loose the four horsemen and those darned Republicans at long last realize their Luciferian dreams of Armageddon, but in the meantime we chose to catch up on the sporting scene.
Alas, even the sports pages can no longer provide refuge from annoying political controversies. With hopes of finding out how our locally-beloved but long-beleaguered Kansas City Chiefs have remained unbeaten after six games we turned to news of the National Football League, but found the coverage dominated by arguments about the Washington Redskins squad’s moniker. Apparently some people find it offensive, and some small minority of them are of a copper hue, so there’s the predictable movement afoot to demand a more culturally sensitive name. This has been an occasionally recurring controversy for as long as we can remember, and hasn’t yet forced a new name on the stubborn football franchise, but this time around seems a bit more ferocious than usual and has enlisted the support of luminaries ranging from President Barack Obama to NBC sportscaster Bob Costas. The combined self-righteousness of Obama and Costa alone is sufficient to browbeat most sports moguls into submission, but thus far the Redskins’ ownership has remained defiant.
We wish the franchise well. This more-sensitive-than-thou sort of bossiness is a most bothersome feature of modern American life, and should be resisted at every opportunity.
Perhaps because sports is the last bastion of pure meritocracy left in America, the radical egalitarians seem especially intent on imposing their exquisite sensitivities on the country’s athletics. Sometimes the cause is sexism or animal cruelty or the exploitation of college athletes who get nothing in return for the recreations other than an outrageously over-priced higher education, but the egalitarians seem especially upset by certain nomenclature. Any names pertaining to Native Americans is particularly irksome to modern sensibilities, and several teams have been forced to stop using specific tribal identities even when the specific tribes were honored rather than offended by the team’s mascots. The aforementioned Kansas City Chiefs have also been criticized for an alleged anti-Indian bias despite the intriguing fact the team was named in honor of Roe “Chief” Bartle, the mayor who concocted the stadium-subsidy deal that brought the franchise from Dallas, and could have just easily been called the Kansas City Political Machine Bosses, which would have surely given offense to Democrats in big cities around the country. Any sons or daughters of Ireland offended by Notre Dames’ pugnacious stereotype of the “Fightin’ Irish” or Swedes offended by the violent imagery of the Minnesota Vikings’ helmet logo will get less sympathy from the egalitarians, and other similarly pale-faced ethnicities will likewise have to endure the insult, but any mascot of a swarthier complexion will continue to spark protests.
Perhaps “Fightin’ Irish” and “Vikings” and the like aren’t racial slurs, but here on the Plains where Indians are commonly encountered the word “redskin” isn’t considered much of a pejorative. In our very diverse town of Wichita, Kansas, there is an occasional hubbub about North High’s teams calling themselves Redskins, but so far it has always faltered when the sizeable local community of Native Americans has expressed its collective lack of concern about the matter. Most Indians have more pressing concerns than the longstanding nicknames of sporting teams, and many of those problems are the result of the well-intentioned efforts of exquisitely culturally sensitive liberals, and it is hard to see what tangible benefits they would realize from a change in the Washington pro football team’s name.

— Bud Norman

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