It would appear that the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority are going to find themselves involved in the reignited controversy involving the name and logo of the Washington Redskins.
Last week, opponents of the Redskins nickname got a big boost when President Barack Obama said that, if he owned the team and knew the name was offensive to a segment of the population, he would consider changing it.
Minnesota and Wisconsin have a high Native American population and it looks as though the Metrodome is going to become a battleground for the debate Nov. 7 when the national media descends on Minneapolis for a Thursday night game. When the Metrodome played host to the World Series in October 1991 and the Super Bowl in January 1992, peaceful demonstrations took place by Native American groups. Another is being planned for the Nov. 3 game outside the Metrodome.
Additionally, Native American groups are attempting to make it forbidden to use the word Redskins in the new stadium, as well as the last appearance by Washington at the Metrodome. The MSFA has been petitioned to ban the word Redskins from any signs, scoreboards or advertisements inside and outside the Metrodome and sign an agreement forbidding the use of that name – which opponents have taken to calling the R-word – in the new facility.
Minnesota is no stranger to the Redskins-Native American debate. Many of the towns, lakes, rivers and counties in Minnesota have names that are directly tied to the Native American heritage of the area. When the debate over the racist nature of the term Redskins (or Indians or Redmen) and/or the use of a Native American logo or mascot for high school sports teams, many changed names to something less offensive or completely different. While much progress has been made in that area, the Washington Redskins have remained defiant.
Make no mistake about it. The Redskins name is offensive. Not all Native American team references are. Many believe that college nicknames like the North Dakota Fighting Sioux or the Florida State Seminoles actually pay homage to the fighting tradition of the warriors that are depicted in their logos. However, Redskins is a different story completely. To make it as simplified as possible, the word "Redskins" was a term coined by white settlers who came to America and had never seen people with that particular skin color. While few Native Americans could be viewed as having red skin, it was a name that stuck. Even the term "Indian" was a mistake because Christopher Columbus originally believed he had found the West Indies and determined the residents to be West Indians.
Washington owner Daniel Snyder responded to the criticism this week, using as his explanation the 81-year history of the name. A weaker argument couldn't be made because 150 years ago, America was divided over the longstanding history of slavery that had gone on for more than 81 years. Snyder should see this as a business opportunity and not the world being against him.
The NFL pays tribute to the almighty dollar like most multi-billion-dollar corporations. If there is a way to make an extra buck (or millions of them), corporations jump on that opportunity. This is one of those chances. Snyder can come out of the situation looking as though he bowed to public demand (like when New Coke tanked and they brought back old Coke with much fanfare) while lining his pockets with millions of dollars.
Say, for example, Snyder was to change the name of the Redskins to something with an All-American symbolic name. The baseball team that came to Washington is called the Nationals. Why not call the team the Americans? Change the colors to red, white and blue and wrap yourself in the American flag. That would have benefits that Snyder could take advantage of.
Any Washington fan with an RG3 jersey would likely be willing to spend the $50-200 that it would cost to get the new colors – everybody wants to be in style – and it would open a completely new market for fans both in the D.C. area and around the country to buy those jerseys.
Snyder has drawn his own line in the sand standing behind an arguably racist team name. There is a compromise solution – one that, if played right, could funnel millions of additional dollars annually into the coffers of the Washington franchise. At a time when there isn't much going right in Washington D.C., this would be a chance for the Redskins to abandon the name for profit. That usually works is the business world.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Holler: Snyder can do right thing and profit
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