Greg Cote: Rest in pieces, Redskins. Now for the others

Greg Cote
Miami Herald

They are out there. Fans of the Washington football club formerly known as "Redskins" who are genuinely upset that their team is burying some of its tradition and heritage with the nickname change that the franchise officially announced Monday was coming.

Which invites the question: Can you be indignant and angry while simultaneously wearing a rubber hog's nose strapped on your face?

Oft times elements of tradition and heritage are lousy things to celebrate. Slavery, for example.

Fans angry at the disappearance of Redskins show the same misplaced outrage you see from folks attaching great significance to the Confederate flag and outraged to see it ceremonially lowered without salute.

Racist symbols gotta go. The belated national consensus on that is some of the good to come from the hurt. From the George Floyd killing that forced an opening of eyes to social injustice and racial inequality. Sports is playing its part, that's all, so NASCAR bans Confederate flags at its racetracks and now Washington is retiring Redskins and its Indian head logo, the new nickname yet to be revealed.

Are the Nickname Police looking elsewhere now? Are other teams nervous about a forced rebranding? Nothing is as bad as Redskins _ a dictionary-defined slur that some Native Americans saw as their N-word. Redskins was never really defensible, and team owner Dan Snyder needs to acknowledge that at some point.

As for the other teams under related scrutiny?

Cleveland Indians will feel the heat. Indians is a simply descriptive word, not a pejorative; still, it calls to mind the cardboard protest signs that read, “WE ARE NOT YOUR MASCOT.”

Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Braves seem to be on somewhat safer ground, in that both nicknames convey strength and nobility. Yet there is no denying both are appropriating and making a mascot of Native American heritage.

(We're sticking to pro sports here, but I'm not forgetting about you, Florida State Seminoles. Eyes on you as well, Central Michigan Chippewas!).

The packaging beyond the nicknames themselves matters. It's why the Indians retired the beyond-gross caricature of Chief Wahoo in 2018. It's why the Braves are considering doing away with the Tomahawk Chop.

Quick aside: The Chicago Blackhawks nickname is in honor of the U.S. 86th Infantry Division, which was nicknamed the Blackhawk Division after Black Hawk, a Native American chief. The Detroit Red Wings nickname has no component of race. It was adapted from a Montreal club that went by Winged Wheelers.

For every sports team nickname that is controversial, there are five that are just plain weird or dumb or don't make sense. They become such a part of the fabric of a city that we forget how weird or dumb they actually are.

Los Angeles kept Lakers after the club moved from Minneapolis ("The Land of 10,000 Lakes), even though natural lakes are rare in California, especially around L.A.

Utah kept Jazz after the team moved from New Orleans, even though, unlike New Orleans, Utah and jazz music go together like peanut butter and sand.

Washington Wizards. Who came up with that name? Harry Potter?

The Cincinnati Reds briefly changed their name to Redlegs in the 1950s because "Reds" was then associated with communism. Just sayin'.

Minnesota's NFL team? "Viking" means "pirate raid" in the Old Norse language, and some history sees Vikings as having been barbaric pillagers.

There are professional sports teams nicknamed Pelicans, Ducks and Penguins. Have you seen those birds?

Vancouver Canucks. "Canuck" once was considered a derogatory word that Americans called Canadians.

Tampa Bay dropped the Devil from Devil Rays, but Satan is still alive and skating in New Jersey.

Houston Astros always sounded like it would have been George Jetson's favorite team.

On the bright side, no nickname in sports was ever worse or as damnable as Redskins.

Rest in pieces.