The Pigskins Shame Spiral is an occasional feature tracking developments related to the name of D.C.’s beloved football team.
Who: Ian Austin and Ruth Smeeth, two Labour Party members of Britain’s Parliament
Change the name? Indubitably. Austin and Smeeth sent a letter to the NFL in February calling the Washington football team’s name what it is: “a racial slur,” according to ESPN. The team is set to play a regular-season game against the Cincinnati Bengals in London on Oct. 30 for the league’s 2016 International Series.
“The exportation of this racial slur to the UK this autumn, when the Washington team is due to play, directly contravenes the values that many in Britain have worked so hard to instill,” the pair wrote, per ESPN.
Why? To borrow from Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s slogan for the forthcoming Wizards practice facility on the campus of St. Elizabeths, the team’s name is bigger than football. That’s what the members of parliament clearly recognized when Smeeth told ESPN a little over a week ago: “We’re quite clear that sport is a vehicle for cultural change and celebration of what’s best about society rather than hate and division. That’s why bringing in new racial slurs to Britain is unacceptable. This is not the way we would want Native Americans introduced to our country.”
Shame Spiral rating: SMDH. As if the team’s insistence on its derogatory moniker didn’t look bad enough already, representatives of the country that once expelled Native Americans from their land for money and plunder call out the Pigskins on their archaic branding. (“A team’s name is a club’s decision,” a spokesperson for the NFL told ESPN. “We recognize there are strong views on both sides of this.” Laissez-faire much?) Think Progress reports that the group Change the Mascot stated in reply to Austin and Smeeth’s letter, “Perpetuating the slurring of people of color runs counter to American and British ideals of respect and tolerance.” That’s a commonality oceans apart.
Illustration by Jandos Rothstein; h/t 730DC