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The Pigskins Shame Spiral is an occasional feature tracking developments related to the name of D.C.’s beloved football team.
Who: D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and three-quarters of the 80-member California State Assembly.
Change the name? Double duh. On Thursday—the first day of the NFL season—Norton introduced a bill calling for Congress to remove the league’s federal antitrust-exemption status, as long as it continues to allow the Washington Pigskins to use “a disparaging moniker that has been found by legal authorities to be a racial slur.” On the other side of the country, the California State Assembly voted 59-9 to approve The California Racial Mascots Act, which would prohibit state schools from using the slur starting in 2017; in effect, this would compel four California high schools to drop the name.
Why? Norton said in a statement: “The name of the nation’s capital, Washington, should always be associated with pride, not with a moniker that mocks and insults Native Americans. Changing the name is not a question of if, but when. The sooner Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s 29 other team owners get on the right side of the law and of history and use their leadership, the sooner Washington’s football team will cease being an embarrassment to the league and to the country.” A California assemblyman similarly explained in a press release, “It’s time for California to do the right thing and phase out the use of this, dictionary defined, racial slur.” (You’re accused of literally being on the wrong side of history, Dan Snyder!)
Shame Spiral rating: SMDH. This isn’t the first time Norton or a state assembly has sought to ban Native American slurs or mascots for sports teams (Norton last year proposed stripping the tax-exempt status of professional sports leagues like the NFL that allow teams to use the racially charged term), but we’re still pretty shocked by the callousness of the Pigskins’ response to the delegate: “We disagree with Ms. Norton’s opposition to the Washington [Pigskins] name. More than 85 percent of Ms. Norton’s constituents disagree as well, as recent polls have shown.” That support is shrinking nationally.
So remember: As you’re chomping on chicken wings and slugging down beers this NFL season, your opinion on derogatory names and mascots matters.
Illustration by Jandos Rothstein