The Washington Redskins may soon be forced to change the name of their franchise, as the US Patent office today cancelled the trademark registrations for the team. This forcing-of-the-hand pressure on Washington to change its team name will make some people happy (particularly Native Americans), but will also open Pandora’s Box and put a spotlight on the hypocrisy that exists around political correctness in the United States today. Yes, prepare yourself for a very slippery slope should the Redskins be required to change their team name, as there are countless more teams behind Washington that should also face the same scrutiny and modern day standard for team nicknames based on the precedent here.
Drilling deeper, what about the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Black Hawks, and Florida State Seminoles? And while we’re at it, what about the countless “Fighting Irish” teams across the country, from high school teams all the way up to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish? To date, I haven’t heard a single word about the push to have Irish-based names removed from the sports landscape, yet if we are using the same standard of sensitivity and political correctness we should. I’m quite certain there are many Irish people who don’t necessarily think of the word “fighting” when describing their people and ancestors. And there’s probably some Irish folks who aren’t real flattered with the cartoon logo, either.
Interestingly, should the Redskins name end up being removed we will see an NFL that allows for Cowboys, but not Indians….ironic, yes, but also yet another example of how uneven the thinking is when it comes to what people find to be OK versus unacceptable. So what is the criteria being used here today? Is it the type of slang used in the team name? The caricature of the logo? Or the level of sensitivity given to one group over others? Should Green Bay (meat) Packers be offended? What about Pittsburgh Steelers, named after steel workers? The San Diego Padres for years used the swinging friar logo (not very flattering to men of the cloth), yet I have never heard a complaint about this.
I understand and respect how some Native Americans are bothered by Indian-type names in sports, but I also understand there are other team names out there that are equally offensive to people, yet those teams are rarely, if ever, scrutinized. And if you think the lack of any consistency is limited to team names, some would argue that the same political correctness inconsistencies have been witnessed off the field as well — enter Donald Sterling. There is no arguing that what Sterling said about African Americans was in terribly poor taste, but similar comments have been made about how nonathletic white athletes are (Charles Barkley), yet those comments are typically met with laughs. In fact, some professional players (like Kobe Bryant) have made derogatory comments about gay athletes and rarely do they face any real consequence — yet Donald Sterling was forced to sell his team within three days and fined $2.5 million dollars.
My point here is not to suggest what is right or wrong, good or bad, but instead to point out the inconsistencies in the sports world today when it comes to political correctness. The point is different people are offended by different things and there is no universal standard when it comes to what we can joke about, use as a nickname, or offend others by using. Why is there no public outcry about the comical character of the Fighting Irish? And would Donald Sterling not been forced to sell his team if he would have made an off-color remark about gays, Jews, Mexicans, or Muslims? It’s anybody’s guess today when it comes to the public cherry-picking and what they will endorse, tolerate, or speak out about — and the result is a slippery slope being set by precedents that will undoubtedly impact the future of sports.