Mac Engel

Owner Dan Snyder winning war to keep Redskins name

Dan Snyder might not win many football games, but he is winning the public relations war against his football team. The maligned owner of the Washington Redskins has dug in, and he is winning the fight.

All he has to do is take the punches, and the nickname of his toy will never change.

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“In my lifetime, I don’t think it will really change,” said Carney Saupitty, 57, a Comanche who works at the Comanche National Museum & Cultural Center in Lawton, Okla. “The Native American population is so small, that’s why. Unlike our black friends, or our Mexican friends, there are not enough of us.”

According to the National Congress of American Indians, there are 5.2 million Native Americans living in the U.S. — about 1.7 percent of the population. Saupitty is right: that’s not enough to be able to raise a stink.

Despite all of the public pressure over the summer on Snyder to change the mascot name of the Redskins, he’s done nothing and there is no indication that he will. Meanwhile, now that the games are being played, we are far more concerned with the status of Robert Griffin III’s injury and whether he will return to play against the Cowboys on Monday night.

This fact does not mean that it’s right.

On Tuesday, during Jerry Jones’ weekly appearance on KRLD/105.3 FM “The Fan,” I asked him if he ever thought the name would be changed.

“I know that it’s not in any way meant to denigrate the Redskins, or the Washington team, or what it represents,” Jones said. “It’s like the Cowboys to me. I think we should all feel that way about it. It’s a great part of the tradition of the league. And I don’t want to be insensitive, but I sure think that if the Redskins and Snyder want to keep that, they should keep it.”

As personally sick of the Politically Correct Police as so many of us are, this is simply not about the mascot name of a football team. What Snyder and the NFL are doing is essentially saying to an entire group of people, “We are sorry, but there are not enough of you to matter.”

The Native American population has far greater concerns than the name of a professional football team, so this crisis is relative. Yes, there are Native Americans that don’t care about the Washington Redskins, or their name. There are many who do. They should matter.

“The older people are offended. When I go to a powwow, I may see a lot of 20-year-olds wearing ball caps that are the Redskins or the Chief Wahoo (formerly of the Cleveland Indians),” Saupitty said. “The world is too small and it can’t be what it was.”

I asked Saupitty the loaded question: Is the term “Redskin” offensive?

“Do you think the term ‘Blackskin’ is offensive?” he asked. “If Snyder is trying to honor a people (with the Redskins name), why wouldn’t he just change the name to ‘Blackskins’ and have the logo of Shaka Zulu? How long do you think that would fly?”

Words these days from politicians championing a cause can often ring hollow, and look like a shameless ploy for publicity so you will remember their names at the voting booth. Words from Saupitty carry far more weight, or they should.

But they don’t because there aren’t enough of Saupitty.

Before talking to Saupitty, my personal opinion was Snyder should not bow to the Politically Correct Brigade. After talking to Saupitty, it’s clear my previous thinking was incorrect. This is not some token case of another group wanting its five minutes on stage to express righteous indignation over something insignificant.

In the grand scheme of things, the name of a football team is nothing. But to some, it’s degrading. It’s not 1930; it’s 2014, and we should know better. Just because the tradition of the “Redskins” name is generations old does not mean it’s not demeaning or outdated. Not every tradition should be preserved.

It’s not as if Snyder is being forced to sell the team, although many would appreciate that. It’s as simple as changing the name.

He has dug in, and the pressure that was so intense a few months ago has dissipated, and he will win.

There aren’t enough Native Americans for Snyder, or the NFL, to care enough to change it.

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This story was originally published October 22, 2014 6:30 PM.

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