In this cultural moment, where the racist origins of even things like objectivity and sleep are finally coming to bear, naming or renaming a sports team is a hazardous pursuit that must be handled with the utmost care. Obviously the professional football team in Washington had to get rid of their “Redskins” name, as it was deeply offensive to white liberals and a few Native Americans. But the fear was always that they’d end up with a new name more dehumanizing than the old. It looks as though that nightmare scenario is now a reality.
ESPN reports that the team formerly called the Redskins will, at least for the 2020 season, officially call itself The Washington Football Team. Their logo is just a red background with yellow letters that say “The Washington Football Team, Est. 1932.”
Needless to say, when I saw it for the first time I nearly vomited. What they had before was merely degrading, racist, and horrifically offensive. The new name and logo is traumatizing to a nearly lethal extent.
First of all, Washington was a slaveowner. His name should not be found on a football helmet, nor anywhere else on Earth. Also, the word “foot” inherently otherizes those who identify as disabled, invalidating their lived experience and relegating them further to the fringes of mainstream society. The word “ball” obviously brings to mind anti-trans stereotypes, not to mention it marginalizes those who identify as two dimensional.
It is hard to know where to start with a slur like “team,” which, for one thing, is an anagram for “meat.” Are we now pretending that vegans don’t exist? Also the concept of “team” has sexist and patriarchal roots, evoking a time when women were considered too fragile and weak to participate in team sports.
“1932” is perhaps the most atrociously offensive aspect of the revamped logo. Remember that Arabic numerals were appropriated from Arabic culture and now bring to mind the West’s history of colonization and violence against brown and black bodies. And 1932 happens to be the same year that Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped, making the memorialization of such a year deeply insensitive to trafficking victims. Of course, as everybody knows, 1932 is the year that Mahatma Ghandi began his hunger strike against the British new Caste Separation Laws, an event that Hindus still solemnly remember today I assume. By claiming 1932 on their logo, Washington is ruthlessly appropriating from India and erasing Ghandi’s legacy at the same time. On the plus side, the Great Depression did impoverish a lot of white people in 1932, but that is hardly enough to balance things out.
If Washington wants to pick a name that will not minimize, marginalize, otherize, dehumanize, problematize, criticize, villainize, or vaporize any protected classes or minority groups, it could go with something like “The Sorrys,” with a mascot of a tearful white man prostrating himself in humiliated submission. If they aren’t ready to take such a socially conscious step, the next best option would be a name that is nothing more than incomprehensible sounds mixed together. “The Aahhfuushmassligglies,” for example, or even “The Flindershins.”
Really anything would be better than the old name or the new one. Though I fear that, whatever they choose, the emotional damage has already been done.
Post-trigger warning: The above piece of punditry employs insidious devices known as sarcasm and parody.
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