The online magazine Slate has declared that it will no longer refer to the Washington Redskins by the team’s name.
Instead, Slate will refer to the Redskins as “Washington” or “Washington’s NFL team.” The magazine, known for having a contrarian take on issues, justifies the decision primarily on the grounds that the term “Redskins” is “only a bit offensive,” yet “extremely tacky and dated,” somewhat “like an old aunt who still talks about ‘colored people’ or limps her wrist to suggest someone’s gay.”
As silly as that justification is, the magazine does, to its credit, refuse to label those who support the nickname as bigots. As David Plotz, the publication’s editor, writes, “though Redskins critics are reluctant to admit it, the name is a subtle case. It is not an open-and-shut outrage like the still-used nickname ‘Savages.’ The word redskin has a relatively innocent history,” citing the work of Smithsonian Institution senior linguist Ives Goddard. When George Preston Marshall founded the team, Plotz says, “he was almost certainly trying to invoke Indian bravery and toughness, not to impugn Indians.”
Nevertheless, Plotz says, “time passes, the world changes, and all of a sudden a well-intentioned symbol is an embarrassment.”
We await the day that Slate decides to refer to the New England Patriots as “Massachusett’s NFL team” on the grounds that the name is too nationalistic.