Here's a fascinating perspective on renaming the Redskins
When Brett Favre was lighting up the scoreboard as quarterback for the University of Southern Mississippi in the late '80s and early '90s, the school's nickname was "The Golden Eagles." But when Jimmy Buffett went to Southern Miss in the mid '60s, the nickname was "The Southerners." And a few decades before that, the nickname was "The Confederates."
Both times, "The Southerners" and "The Confederates" made students uncomfortable and they voted to change the nickname, landing on "The Golden Eagles," which happens to be one of the best nicknames in college sports, that everybody can rally behind, and nobody's offended.
See? That didn't hurt.
The NFL's team in Washington, our nation's capital, appears ready, finally, to drop "Redskins" in favor of something that isn't a horribly offensive racist slur against Native Americans. Owner Daniel Snyder is doing this totally on his own, without any pressure from sponsors or retail stores that are pulling his team's gear off their shelves, or polls that show Americans are repulsed by the term "Redskins." He just wants to do the right thing. Yeah, right.
This isn't the first time an NFL team has changed its nickname – about one-quarter of teams have done it. The Washington case is unique for one reason, however. It's unbelievable that the league allowed a team, since Washington's inception in 1932, to call itself a racist epithet. And allowed its owner to defend the nickname for so long and promise never to change it. Now Snyder says he's committed to a "thorough review" of possibly changing the nickname. I'm guessing he wants to thoroughly review how much money this is going to cost him.
Several college programs have changed their nickname from Native American imagery to less offensive, more socially acceptable terms. Stanford was the "Indians," for decades, changed it to "Cardinals" in 1972 and shortened it to "Cardinal" in 1981. It hasn't seemed to put a dent in Stanford's winning ways. St. John's University changed its nickname from "Redmen" (including an unflattering cartoon logo of a Native American in full headdress) to "The Red Storm" in 1994. Miami University (Ohio) teams were called "Redskins" until 1997, when they switched to "RedHawks."
A very similar controversy, changing a school's nickname from something unimaginably offensive to something everybody could cheer for, happened in Houston less than 10 years ago, and I eavesdropped on it many times in my living room.
In 2014, under orders from Houston Independent School District officials, Lamar High School changed its nickname from "Redskins" to "Texans." Some of the school's athletes and, this surprised me, some of the parents were very angry about the change. I heard several of the players say, "We're still going to call ourselves 'Redskins.' We're still going to break huddles by shouting 'Redskins.' That's not going to change."
I stuck my nose into the discussion. It's not one of my more attractive qualities, and it wasn't the first time I heard, "Why can't you just stay upstairs and leave my friends alone?"
"Let me tell you something, guys. I know this nickname business is important to you now, but I promise it won't matter one bit once you leave high school for college or the military or a work career. This isn't a big deal. If the nickname hurts people's feelings, that's enough to change it. I went to Thomas Jefferson High School. Our nickname was 'The Minutemen.' Not once, not for a moment, have I identified as a Minuteman or thought of myself as a Minuteman. Although I was called that a couple of times early on … and it wasn't a compliment."
Three other HISD schools were directed to change their "culturally offensive" nicknames: Hamilton Middle School switched from "Indians" to "Huskies": Westbury High School went from "Rebels" to "Huskies"; and Welch Middle School dropped "Warriors" for "Wolf Pack."
Two years later, HISD officials changed the names of eight local schools named for leaders of the Confederacy. Among them, Robert E. Lee High School became Margaret Long Wisdom High School, and Jefferson Davis High School became Northside High School.
I believe these were positive steps for Houston. The names of Confederate heroes belong in history books, not on school buildings. Nobody is denying our history or heritage, but history belongs in museums, not on school uniforms worn by descendants of slaves. If it hurts people's feelings, stop doing it.
One big difference between HISD becoming enlightened about school names and mascots and the situation with the NFL team in Washington? It cost HISD about $1.5 million to research the name changes and buy new uniforms and logos. In Washington, owner Dan Snyder will make millions from longtime fans buying up old Redskins gear and hitting the Nike store for first-edition T-shirts and jerseys with the new name and logo. The early favorite seems to be "Warriors" without any images of Native Americans or feathers. It's about time – just long, long overdue.