By Alan Moore, Staff Writer

As a long-suffering Washington Redskins fan, I know there are many things to be offended by from the team, but their mascot most certainly is not one of them. A select few have made the argument that the term “Redskins” is racist against Native Americans. Some have even called for all sports teams’ names that refer to Native Americans to be changed. Last month, a new court battle ensued to strip legal protection for the trademarked name of the Washington Redskins.

In the politically correct and postmodern world that we live in, this really comes as no surprise, but these attacks are baseless.

The Washington Redskins were known as the Boston Braves until they changed their name on July 8, 1933. They had adopted the name “Braves” because they played in the stadium of the Boston Braves National League baseball team. They moved from Boston to Washington on February 13, 1937.

Owner George Preston Marshall changed the name to “Redskins” to honor their first coach William “Lone Star” Dietz, who was an Oglala Lakota Sioux. Dietz had been a student at Pennsylvania’s Carlisle Indian Industrial School and got his start playing football under Glenn “Pop” Warner. This was also where he met his wife Angel DeCora, who started the first Native American art program. Before taking the job with Washington, he coached at the Haskell Indian School in Kansas and took a number of Native American players with him to play for the Redskins.

In many ways, the name was used as a marketing ploy. Native American players wore red war paint during games and a Native American coach was an interesting angle for a sport that was relatively unknown in the 1930s.

The controversy did not heat up until 1999 when the United States Trademark Trial and Appeal Board cancelled the trademark of the team mascot. They found the term “scandalous” and ruled that it could “disparage” Native Americans because “redskins” allegedly originated as a term for bounty payments for killing an Indian. In 2003, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia reversed this decision because the plaintiff, Indian activist Suzan Harjo, had provided unsubstantiated claims of the origins of the term and colluded with others to perpetuate that lie.

In actuality, the first known reference to Native Americans as “red” came from 1725 in which documentation accounts for a Taensa chief referring to himself as a “red man.” Other evidence shows that many Native Americans used this term to describe themselves in comparison to other races. Historical records show that it was first a Native American expression with no racist connotations.

The term “redskins” was first noted in a written account of a translation in 1769 by three chiefs of the Piankashaws in what is now known as Illinois.The term was used by both Native Americans and colonists. In 1812, the first printed public reference came when a number of western tribes visited President Madison at the White House in 1812. In their remarks to the President, tribal leaders referred to themselves as “redskins.”

The past aside, how do present day Native Americans feel about the Redskins and other American Indian-themed names?

The Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania did the last major poll on the matter in 2004. In the year-long study, they found that 90 percent of Native Americans were not bothered by the term while only nine percent found it offensive. Even more strikingly, only 14 percent of those who considered themselves politically liberal found the term offensive. The margin of error was two percentage points.

Sports Illustrated did a similar poll in 2002 which mirrored the results of the Annenberg study. They found that 75 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the name. Additionally, 83 percent said that no professional sports team named after a Native American theme should change their name.

Consider this: the term “redskins” has never been used as a derogatory term in the known history of the world. The trademark name of “Redskins,” as pertaining to the team in Washington, DC, was granted in 1967. No complaints or challenges were officially filed until 1992, coincidentally right after the Washington Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI. A media-grabbing court battle would have gained the most public attention with the team in the spotlight. Lastly, Native Americans generally couldn’t care less about the team name, or any Native American-themed name for that matter. So stop the lawsuits, let’s move on with our lives and hope that the team’s future play is less insulting than a select few find the name.

Alan Moore is a communication major.