Would that which we call ‘the R–dsk–ins’ play as badly with any other name?

April 6, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 6, 2014

A recent controversy centered around the Twitter hashtag #CancelColbert, which was a reaction to a skit and tweet from Stephen Colbert’s satirical TV news program, “Colbert Report,” which was prompted by Daniel Snyder founding the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, which in turn was — deep breath here! — a response to the ongoing controversy over the name of Snyder’s NFL team, which many people (myself included) take to be a vicious slur.

Personally, I would love to see the name changed. But I don’t own the team; the owner is Snyder, who has proven to be a reprehensible human being (not to mention a lousy NFL owner, at least when it comes to fielding a winning team). And it’s Snyder’s right to keep or replace the name as he pleases.

Unfortunately, the immensely stubborn Snyder has declared in no uncertain terms that he will never change the franchise’s name. So while I applaud and sympathize with those who protest the name, and while I tend to avoid using the team’s moniker, I don’t plan to expend much energy calling for a change.

Still, nothing is eternal, and it’s likely that at some point in my lifetime, the Washington club will get another name. It’s with that eventuality in mind that I humbly offer the following list of possible replacement names.

RepresentativesPros: This begins with the same sounds as the current team name. It also symbolizes what many important officials in Washington, D.C., should be doing: representing their constituents’ wishes in the federal government. Cons: “Representatives” is a rather long, unwieldy nickname. However, the team could be called the Reps or Reppies.

• Red InkPros: Let’s be honest: For many people, budget deficits and the national debt are what Washington is all about. And while debt is notional rather than tangible, the current size of the obligation — about $17.6 trillion as of this writing — makes our nation’s red ink seem both intimidating and eternal. Cons: Washington fans probably don’t want to be permanently associated with debt. (Not that they get much choice in the matter.) Also, “Red Ink” lacks a certain snappiness.

• RacistsPros: This captures some of the essence of the team’s current nickname. It also suggests a brand of meanness and obstinacy that is frequently associated with winning football teams. The name also begins with the same letter as the club’s current name, and it contains the same number of sibilant sounds. Cons: As with Red Ink, this is a label with which most, if not all, Washingtonians would rather not be associated.

• RancorsPros: The rancor, from Jabba the Hutt’s iniquitous Tatooine palace in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, is a large, powerful carnivore. Its size and strength, obviously, are attributes beloved of football players, coaches and fans. Cons: In 2010, Lucasfilm gently shut down a campaign by Ole Miss students to make Admiral Ackbar the official school mascot. On the other hand, Disney now owns Star Wars, and the Mouse isn’t exactly averse to cross-promotional possibilities

• GeneralsPros: Generals are commanding, powerful strategists with battalions and armies at their beck and call. What’s not to love? Cons: I know of only one American sports scene to have been named the Generals. Unfortunately, that team is the Washington Generals, longtime foil of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball exhibition team. There are two difficulties here, one being the legal and licensing complications of adopting a name that is already in use by a team in the same city. The other is that the extant Generals had, as of 2010, a record of approximately six wins and more than 13,000 losses.

• BureaucratsPros: Again, this is what Washington is known for — paper pushers. Bureaucrats are (sometimes) associated with intelligence and stubbornness. Cons: Bureaucrats is even more unwieldy than Representatives. It’s also harder to shorten (Bureaus? Crats? Hm…) Also, this nickname isn’t really all that intimidating, and there aren’t many people who would voluntarily want to root on bureaucrats.

• ChieftainsPros: The current Washington NFL franchise’s nickname is controversial because it’s generally considered to be a slur. Other team names associated with Native Americans are much less contentious (although still not entirely controversy-free). Why not pick a name that retains Native American ties and also is associated with leadership and wisdom? Cons: Adopting this name would introduce the kind of confusing situation that existed for years in the Canadian Football League, which had the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Ottawa Rough Riders. I don’t consider this much of a down side, frankly.

• BillsPros: Washington, D.C., is the home of our nation’s legislation; it’s also the source of authority for printing currency (dollar dollar bills, y’all). Honestly, symbols just don’t get much better than this. Cons: Buffalo’s NFL team is called the Bills. But really, who cares?

Obviously, none of these proposed names is perfect. But given time, maybe one of them will grow on the Washington fan base and the team owner. Here’s hoping!


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