Why the Washington Redskins Name Needs to Change, but the Washington Logo Needs to Stay

The Washington Redskins name is an abomination. No matter how much pride somebody takes in cheering for a team called the Redskins, “redskins” is a slur for American Indians (I shall be using the term “American Indian” as opposed to “Native American,” and this a perfect explanation on the matter). Yes, it is a slur. And a pretty bad one at that. Cheering for the Washington Redskins and thinking you are honoring American Indians is like going to Yeshiva University and saying, “man, these k–kes can play basketball.” Yeah, you might think you are complimenting them, but you really are just insulting them while doing so. But while the name “Redskins” needs to change, the Washington logo should absolutely remain. The logo is, in fact, a point of pride for American Indians and specifically the Blackfeet tribe.

Most people are all on board the name change train. As they should be. However, because the logo is so intrinsically linked to the name, people are also demanding the Washington logo be changed. The problem is, they are throwing the baby out with the bathwater when they are making the demand. How many of you now reading this know the history of the logo? I bet you hear the name “Redskins,” see the Washington logo and think “racist logo.” Would it shock you to know a member of the Blackfeet tribe provided the inspiration behind changing the logo and picking the new one? And that he took a ton of pride in doing so?

Well, it’s true (it’s damn true). The man responsible for both the design change and the new design of the Washington logo was Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, a member of the Blackfeet tribe now located on a reservation in the northwest corner of Montana. The Blackfeet tribe is one of the 10 largest tribes in the United States but counts a mere 17,321 members in its nation (and considering the size of the reservation, that means there are about five people per square mile). Their “Cathedral” is a location known as the “Badger-Two Medicine” area.

The Importance of Not Memory Holing the Washington Redskins Logo During the Name Change

I would not know any of the above if I one day years ago had not stumbled upon a story talking about the history of the logo (this was so long ago back in high school my research has failed to find the original story). Because I had the foundation of actually knowing something about the logo/topic of debate this week in the world of sports, I could be happy the name was going (again, uber racist), and also saddened the logo was going to go. Saddened because I knew there was a family whose father’s legacy was going to get tossed into the trashbin of history.

But it is not just Walter “Blackie” Wetzel’s legacy, it is also the legacy of the Blackfeet tribe. Along with the legacy, their history will fall by the wayside until only those few Blackfeet who listen to their elders will know their history and their origins. The plight of the American Indian is one of the worst in American history. Yes, it is truly amazing that the Washington R—–ns seem to be on the verge of changing their name to something honoring the Tuskegee Airmen. That is a noble endeavor, and not enough people know about the Tuskegee Airmen.

However, if you did a poll, how many people would know the history of the Tuskegee Airmen, and how many people would know the history of the Blackfeet Tribe? I think it is safe to say the Airmen would win out. So if we are playing by both intersectionality rules, and love of history/fear of forgetting our country’s history rules, it is probably better served to change Washington’s name and keep the Washington logo. In fact, with all the damage that has already been done by Washington linking the terrible name with the fantastic logo, we would be much better served to keep the logo specifically to teach people about the history of the Blackfeet.

Why Changing the Washington Logo is Doing a Disservice to America

Too many people like to jump on causes without truly knowing anything about the subject. But activism without knowledge is dangerous and ignorant. If you are so gung-ho about something make sure you actually read and learn about the subject before picking up your pitchforks. Otherwise, you are just an ignorant and dangerous fool. If you are demanding Washington change its name because you feel like the nickname is a slur? Congratulations, you are right.

But if you also say and think the Washington logo is racist, you are wrong. And worse, your activism is going to lead to a less knowledgable America about the most oppressed people in America. An America that has continuously done severe damage to the American Indian community and culture. So while you think you are helping, you are in fact only helping in continuing to erase the culture and laudable history of the most oppressed community in America today, the American Indian.