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Redskins Name Change Isn't Hog Wash

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Joe Jacoby. Photo Credit: Mike Powell/Allsport
Joe Jacoby. Photo Credit: Mike Powell/Allsport

The team nickname controversy has reared its ugly head again. This time it’s the Washington Redskins that are coming under fire for having a name that’s offensive to someone, somewhere.

First off, given that the age of Political Correctness got into full swing about the time Ronald Reagan became president, it’s amazing that the professional football team in our nation’s capital, the epicenter of Political Correctness, hasn’t been forced to change it by now. I guess our elected representatives were too busy raising our taxes and concocting plans to take our guns.

I usually come down on the side of the teams in these debates, since it’s usually loopy liberal arts majors with not enough homework who make these things an issue. In fact, I interjected myself into the heated debate over the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux nickname about a decade ago. Writing on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, I pointed out that “Fighting Sioux” is not akin to “Redskins,” for a variety of reasons.

First off, they are actually called the “Sioux.” Secondly, about two-thirds of the tribes that call themselves “Sioux” actually approve of the nickname. This is important, because I believe you can always find someone, somewhere, who’s offended by something. I firmly believe that part of any reasonable debate on issues like this should be consensus, and I’m sorry for the 400 Native-Americans who are part of the 11,000-student North Dakota campus, but the vast majority of folks seem to be OK with it.

It’s also important to note that North Dakota does not have some wild-eyed mascot akin to the Cleveland Indian’s Chief Wahoo. Quite the contrary. The Sioux logo was created by Bennet Brien, a respected Sioux artist, who is among those who said he’s honored by the team name.

I think a similar argument could be made in favor of the Florida Seminole and Illinois Fighting Illini team names. Both have the (at least mixed) blessing of the original tribes.

The Washington Redskins, I think it’s fair to say, are a different story. There is nothing reverential about the term “redskin.” It does not connote some great heritage, and I doubt you could find any Native-Americans who call themselves that.

The Redskins and their tin-horned (and apparently tin-eared) dictator, Daniel Snyder, have tried to defend the nickname recently. They’ve posted pieces from Native-Americans around the country who say they have no problem with the nickname. That’s fine but, again, I think these issues often come down to a matter of consensus. Stop the average person on the street and ask them if they think “redskin” is an offensive nickname for a Native-American, and I’m betting the answers would lean heavily toward “Yes.”

So what should the Redskins do?

I think they should change their name. More importantly, I think they should change it to something that has both meaning for the team, and the city in which they play. The Washington football franchise should open the 2013 NFL season as the Washington Hogs.

The name has a rich tradition with the team. “The Hogs” was a term coined by offensive line coach Joe Bugel during training camp in 1982. He looked down the offensive line, saw the massive bellies hanging over their practice pants, and reportedly said, “Okay, you hogs, let’s get running down there.”
The name was appropriate. Center Jeff Bostic, left guard Russ Grimm, right guard Mark May, left tackle Joe Jacoby, right tackle George Starke, and tight ends Don Warren and Rick Walker comprised the original Hogs. The line averaged 273 pounds in 1982, not including Jacoby, who joined the team later but fit right in at more than 300 pounds.

“Hogs” was a great nickname for the Super Bowl-winning Redskins in the 1980s and ‘90s. It’d also be an appropriate nickname for Washington, D.C. in 2013. Given that the U.S. is currently about $17 trillion in debt, the name would be symbolic of our current crop of elected representatives – who, politically speaking, make the original Hogs look like spokesmen for Weight Watchers.