Sunday, July 20, 2014

The good ol’ boys of the NFL

Posted By on Sun, Jul 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge NIC KRAUSE
  • Nic Krause
As the National Football League continues to carry out its plan for global domination, it’s only a matter of time before we see another crop of expansion teams ready to capitalize on fresh, new markets in the United States and abroad.

NFL, if you’ll listen, I have a few ideas for new teams:

How about the Beijing Yellowskins, with a cracked fortune cookie spilling out as an emblem, “Ching-Chong” written on the little, white slip? Or the San Francisco Rainbows, with uniforms bursting with fabulous, vibrant colors and cleverly slimming lines? 

What’s that you say? Those racially insensitive ideas perpetuate cruel prejudices on an enormous scale?

Why then is the Redskins, an inherently racist moniker, allowed to continue to represent our nation’s capital in the mighty NFL?

Every time the Redskins logo is shown on television or printed on a T-shirt, it serves as reminder that when our country was founded, somebody else was already here, and the white man had to slowly and systematically remove those previous tenants before finally settling in. It’s a reminder that many of the laws and legislations quartering off and weakening Native American communities were written and passed in Washington D.C.

But the refusal of the Redskins to change their name is only one part of the timeline for a team with a rich history of racism.

The Washington Redskins was the last NFL team to integrate; they did so a full decade after the rest of the league. George Preston Marshall, the owner of the franchise and a legendary racist, held out as long as was absolutely possible before he let an African-American join his club.

On Dec. 4, 1961, the Redskins organization reluctantly drafted their very first black player. They did so not out of any sudden sense of moral obligation, but by way of direct pressure from the federal government. The Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, threatened to end the Redskins’ lease with District of Columbia Stadium. They were, after all, playing in the home of the U.S. government and in direct, geographical alignment with the National Mall.

Twenty-one months later, in that same National Mall, Martin Luther King Jr. told a crowd of thousands about a dream he’d had. It seems unbelievable that in a time when race was coming to the forefront, no one raised a question about the appropriateness of the Redskins name. The team had finally put a black man on its roster, and in such an arduous war, apparently that was enough.

I wonder what would’ve happened if MLK had tacked on a subtle postscript after his historical speech. Something like, “Ya’ll know that ‘Redskins’ is as racist a team name as you can possibly come up with, right? I mean, it’s identifying an entire culture, one with many unique tribes and individuals and ideologies, by the color of their skin. It’s kinda the reason we showed up here today. So, if you’re gonna start somewhere, you may wanna start with that. Just sayin’.” (I imagine him with more eloquence, but you get the idea.)

The Freedom March convened in D.C. because that place should be a beacon of justice and hope to the rest of the United States, and to the world. It’s a place where the highest political discussion is held, and where rights are preserved. It’s a symbol of the freedom and liberties you are granted upon becoming an American citizen. 

Perhaps the U.S. government lacks the chutzpah it had in those Kennedy years, and the team has moved from inside the District to nearby Landover, Maryland, but the Redskins still bear the name of our nation’s capital on prime-time television, broadcast to the world. Someone in the Capitol should have a problem with that.

The National Football League is one of America’s most humongous brands, and is shaping up to be among its greatest exports. As the NFL looks to expand towards Europe and beyond, it may be time once again for the feds to apply a little direct pressure. It is in the best interest, not to mention the duty, of the United States government to make it clear that racism of any kind — especially on such a large scale and in the home of the president — will not be tolerated.

Nic R. Krause was born a cranky, curmudgeon of a child in a Minnesota suburb. He was plucked from the muggy tundra and relocated to Colorado Springs 22 years ago. From intramural jai-alai, to his complicated relationship with the Minnesota Vikings, Nic, plainly stated, is bonkers for sports.

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