Mike Ditka can keep calling them ‘Redskins,’ but I won’t

Written By BY RICK MORRISSEY Staff Columnist Posted: 08/20/2014, 12:24pm
Array An Oneida Indian Nation Representative speaks at a press conference after meeting with senior officials of the National Football League about changing the mascot name of the Washington Redskins in New York in 2013. | Getty Images

If you saw an American Indian walking across the street, would you yell out, “Hey, Redskin, you dropped your hat’’?

I don’t believe you would, no matter how strongly you feel that the Washington Redskins should be able to keep their nickname. And I don’t believe Mike Ditka would, either, even though he has come out strongly on the side of intolerance, whether he realizes it or not.

The say-anything coach went off on those of us who want to see the Redskins nickname go the way of medical bloodletting. In an interview with RedskinsHistorian.com – you always save up your best stuff for RedskinsHistorian.com – Ditka railed against the “political correct idiots’’ who find the nickname Redskins offensive and want team owner Daniel Snyder to come up with a replacement.

This isn’t about political correctness.

This is about compassion for people who don’t have a voice.

This isn’t about whether you’re liberal or conservative.

This is about whether you’re human.

This is the last time you’ll see me use the term “Redskins’’ in one of my columns, unless it’s about the nickname controversy. It has been bothering me for a long time. I’ve written often about how wrong it is that, in this day and age, we still have a sports franchise that uses a derogatory nickname for Native Americans.

But there I was last season using “Redskins’’ over and over again in a column about the Bears’ 45-41 loss to Washington. Why? Laziness, mostly, an insidious thing. There’s not much worse than a lack of action in the face of a wrong.

But Ditka has woken me up, shaken me out of my stupor. And I would call on the Sun-Times to stop using the term, as well. Though I don’t pretend to speak for everyone at the newspaper, I’d simply ask whether it would be OK if you inserted any other skin color into the nickname – the Washington Blackskins, the Washington Whiteskins, the Washington Yellowskins, etc.

Ironically, skin color is one of the things Ditka brought up in his harangue.

“We’re going to let the liberals of the world run this world,’’ he said. “It was said out of reverence, out of pride to the American Indian. Even though it was called a Redskin, what are you going to call them, a Brownskin? This is so stupid it’s appalling, and I hope that owner keeps fighting for it and never changes it, because the Redskins are part of an American football history, and it should never be anything but the Washington Redskins. That’s the way it is.

“It’s been the name of the team since the beginning of football. It has nothing to do with something that happened lately, or something that somebody dreamed up. This was the name, period. Leave it alone. These people are silly — asinine, actually, in my opinion.”

The argument that the nickname shouldn’t be changed because the franchise has been around a long time is a head shaker. We’ve changed lots of things that once were considered normal. Slavery comes to mind. We’ve evolved.

If Native Americans don’t like the term Redskins, that’s all anybody needs to know on the issue. If any Irish Americans are offended by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, then I’d suggest they speak up. I haven’t heard it ­— perhaps because we of Irish heritage are not living in poverty on reservations

I don’t think this is about a crazy old coot sounding off, as it’s being portrayed in some corners. Ditka is saying out loud what a lot of people, regardless of age, are saying.

And this isn’t about wanting to be “on the right side of history.’’ It’s simply about doing the right thing in the moment.

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