What’s in a nickname? A lot
t appears that even though the organization has kicked and screamed all the way, the Washington Redskins will change their name.
Native Americans have been trying to get that to happen for years, but apparently once businesses got involved and threatened to withhold money from the team, the owner saw the blinking light.
Count me among those who think the name change is a good idea. But then, I’m a Vikings fan, so I don’t have a dog in the fight.
I’m sure there are going to be a lot of highly irritated Redskins fans who will make their irritation well-known. Every time something like this happens, devotees of the soon-to-be-changed nickname go into full high dudgeon mode.
I honestly don’t get it. I wish my life was so simple that I could care about what my favorite team is called. To be fair, nobody’s talked about changing Vikings to something like Passive-Aggressive Scandinavian Berserkers, but I would find it hard to get too upset.
But boy, people do.
The Redskins nickname certainly justifiably offends some people. It’s a relic of a time when insensitive terms for minority groups were just something those groups lived with. They just added it to the list of indignities they endured. They had less power in society, and thus had to pick their battles.
That, however, was then. Times have changed. Still, for whatever reason, nicknames are one thing people hold onto like grim death.
It was a major, ongoing issue where I used to live. The University of North Dakota had always been called the Fighting Sioux. Every three or four years, some Native Americans would register their objections and be roundly ignored.
That was, until the NCAA got involved and pretty much ordered the school to change the nickname, threatening all kinds of dire penalties. The nickname hit the fan.
And a lot of UND people went barking mad. It became the kind of controversy that got so loud it actually seemed to matter. And it went on for years.
It was one of those stories that grew so big there were all kinds of little side stories.
The most amusing of those involved a guy named Ralph Engelstad and his hockey arena. Hockey is the big sport at UND — the school has won national championships — and Ralph was a UND alumnus and former Fighting Sioux hockey player.
Ralph made a fortune operating casinos in Las Vegas and was about the kind of guy you’d imagine makes a fortune in casinos. He actually had Nazi-themed parties, if that tells you anything. Anyway, Ralph built a new hockey arena for his alma mater, a glittering jock palace filled with the Fighting Sioux logo. About halfway through the project, the NCAA came out with its decree. Ralph threatened to pull all his money out of the project. It turned out that for some legal reasons, he couldn’t do that, but it was great good fun watching him fulminate and stamp his rich little feet. He was the kind of guy who seldom heard the word “no.”
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