Washington D.C. High School Considers Redskins Ban

The Washington Redskins have been at the center of a lot of scrutiny lately, with people divided on whether the team name is actually hateful or benign. During a recent halftime commentary during Sunday Night Football, sportscaster Bob Costas himself criticized the name, calling for a change. He noted that many school football teams across the country have changed their names to show good faith, including the University of Miami. They changed their name from the “Redskins” to the “Red Hawks.”

While Costas did not feel that team owner Dan Snyder is racist, he delivered some powerful words. Costas said, “Think for a moment about the term ‘Redskins’ and how it truly differs from all the others. Ask yourself what the equivalent would be if directed toward African Americans, Hispanics, Asians or members of any other ethnic group.
When considered that way, ‘Redskins’ can’t possibly honor a heritage or a noble character trait, nor could it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur no matter how benign the present-day intent. It’s fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended but if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense might legitimately be taken?”

Costas’ argument is a compelling one that has schools across the country scrambling to change their team images. One school, located in Washington, D.C., is even considering banning franchise apparel from their campus.

The High School Debate

According to The Huffington Post, Woodrow Wilson High School principal Pete Cahall was approached by a female student, who informed the principal that she found the Redskins clothing hateful toward Native Americans.

Cahall took the concern seriously but rather than just ban Washington Redskins merchandise from the school, he decided to allow the student government to debate the issue. Cahall said, “I’m going to bring to them a concern of a student they represent, and let them debate and discuss and come up with a proposal — or not. I’ve got no dog in the fight. If nothing else, it’s a learning opportunity.”

The students will be given the opportunity to have their debate soon, possibly over the next couple of weeks. Cahall made this decision in order to show respect toward the school’s diversity, since the student population has a rich host of ethnic backgrounds, and Cahall has since gained the support of Washington, D.C., mayor Vincent Gray.

With Woodrow Wilson High School taking the lead on this issue right in the Washington Redskins’ hometown, other D.C. schools may follow suit. Even President Obama has weighed in on the issue of the team name.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Obama said that if he were the Washington Redskins’ team owner, he would certainly consider changing the name since it is offensive to specific groups of people. Obama added, “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things.”

Despite the national backlash, team owner Dan Snyder insists that he will not change the team name. In a letter to season ticketholders, Snyder wrote, “We are Redskins Nation, and we owe it to our fans and coaches and players, past and present, to preserve that heritage.” Still, the question remains: Are all aspects of one’s heritage worth preserving? Woodrow Wilson High School certainly feels that question is worthy of a real debate, and it will be interesting to see what the final results are, especially with the power being given directly to the student body.