The “Daily Show with Jon Stewart” aired a segment where Senior Corespondent Jason Jones took a look at the ongoing Washington Redskins nickname controversy, where one side contends the name should be changed due to its racial overtones and insensitivity to Native Americans, and the other said maintains that it is a time-tested, traditional, and honorable name associated with a great National Football League franchise. As UPI reported Sept. 26, the “Daily Show,” by gathering two groups with opposing views, fans of the team who see nothing wrong with the name and a group of Native Americans none too enamored with the nickname, started a mini-controversy of their own.
After getting the two opposing groups to share their positions, “The Daily Show” then had the two groups meet face-to-face. According to the Washington Post, the shocked Redskins fans contingent later complained that they felt “ambushed,” with one saying that they felt “in danger” during the confrontation and was worried about being “defamed” by the show. The controversy over the “ambush” didn’t stop “The Daily Show,” though. With a short disclaimer about not airing material where participants have been “intentionally misled” or their views “intentionally misrepresented,” the segment rolled.
Jason Jones began the segment talking about the tradition of the Redskins name, capping it by showing team owner Dan Snyder in a video clip saying that the name means “honor.” But that ridiculous statement was quickly negated when Jones sat down with several Native American who informed the satiric comedian that the name “Redskins” was nothing short of a racial slur and defined as such in any standard dictionary. When Jones pointed out that words often have several definitions, he was quickly informed that the term “redskins” only had one. It was a racial slur used to characterize Native Americans. More horrific, the name derives from a heinous practice known as skin bounty, where the “red” skins of Native Americans were taken as proof of kills during certain conflicts between Europeans and early Americans.
In a sit-down with some avid Redskins fans, Jason Jones heard that the team shouldn’t have to change the name because of tradition, because the name now stood for honor and fun and a culture built on team spirit. Unconvinced but willing to see both sides, Jones even took in a Washington Redskins game. After drinking quite a bit at tailgate parties, he began to understand how Redskins fans could become insensitive to the insensitivity of the nickname.
He even talked to one guy who said that he was born in the U. S., which made him a “native” American. He then told Jones he didn’t want to authorize his comments. In fact, just about everyone Jones spoke with who signed waivers to be videotaped later said they didn’t want to be identified. (“The Daily Show” blurred out their faces.)
The piece went on to mock mascot defenders’ position that they shouldn’t have to change the name because of a vaunted Redskins tradition. They noted that the team had even changed its name at least once before (they were at one time known as the Braves). The team had even moved to another home city (the Braves began in Boston, the name change coming when they moved to Fenway Park to play their games, making the nickname more compatible with Red Sox, the nickname of the major league baseball team there). To emphasize that the team had altered quite a bit about itself over the years, he had the four fans sing the Redskins’ fight song, “Hail To The Redskins.” Jones pointed out that some of the lyrics had changed, with one of the fans actually making the comment that they were altered to be less insensitive.
“The Daily Show” also added the Washington Post post-interview complaints by the “ambushed” participants in the interview session. But by then the satire most likely had done its job — given people a clear perspective from which to view the controversy. Still, willfully denying the implications and disrespectfulness of the name has been a thin excuse since NBC personality Bob Costas caused a stir by denouncing Snyder’s insistence on keeping the name.
“Ask yourself what the equivalent would be if directed towards African Americans, Hispanics, Asians or any other ethnic group,” Costas said in October 2013 on “Sunday Night Football” (per UPI). “When considered that way, ‘Redskins’ can’t possibly honor a heritage or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present day intent.”
Racism in all its myriad forms is a tiresome, ignorance-driven perspective of others. Period. It truly has no place in modern society. Even as something as seemingly harmless as the traditional nickname of a much-loved football team. And that very point was driven home by Jason Jones at the end of the segment when he said, “Hey, he who stands on the wrong side of history:” (a photo of Dan Snyder was shown at this moment) “Change the f***ing name already.”