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What’s in a name? Plenty … er, obviously

It’s stating the obvious to mention it, but in a 21st Century dominated as it is in cultural and campaigning circles by themes of equality, diversity, LGBT [and is it Q? – in any event, the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning rights], anti-colonialist and anti-historical figures connected to slavery, those of us in the “senior citizen time of life” bracket cannot help but shake our heads at some of the headlong “falling over themselves in a constant quest to be more ‘right-on’ than the next person” antics of those who appear in the media.

Today my topic is the controversy surrounding potentially culturally-offensive sports team names.

In the United States of America, the current major ‘case de jour’ is that of the American Football League team the Washington Redskins – now under sustained ‘incoming’ for its use of the word “Redskins”.

In the 1920s the local Boston American Football and Baseball teams both shared the name “Boston Braves” and indeed a pitch.

In 1933 both then moved to Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Braves football team had its name changed to “Boston Redskins”.

And from then until the present day there has been a issue about the name.

From a personal perspective, as a small boy in the 1950s, my knowledge and understanding of American politically-correct arguments was non-existent, being almost exclusively obtained from UK broadcasts of contemporary  black and white kids’ “Cowboys And Indians” action television action series such as The Lone Ranger, Bronco Layne, The Virginian, Champion The Wonder Horse, Bonanza et al.

In stereotypical fashion, in most of these the attitude of most of the white-hatted, white man, cowboy heroes tend to be “The only good injun is a dead ‘un”, although – to be fair – the Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s Red Indian sidekick, was a popular figure with young British viewers (not least in in my household), primarily because he’d been awarded unofficial honorary “one of us” status because of the number of times he saved the life of his boss, whom he always referred to as “Kemo-Sabi”.


Fast forward to 2020 and the Washington Redskins are embroiled in a controversy over the appropriateness of their name.

At either end of the argument, it seems to me, are the group who maintain that “Redskin” was once an inoffensive term for those of Native American (tribal) descent – and indeed often the way that those concerned described themselves. It became part of North American sporting culture long ago and – some suggest – is an affectionate and indeed celebratory reference to the Native American one.

Maybe the Chicago Bears should also change their name – offensive to wildlife?

At the opposite end of the ruck are the group who hold that “Redskin” is a racist word and should therefore be erased from the face of the earth and replaced with whatever is the current “politically-acceptable” term for those who descend – if not from those of the first race who may ever have colonised North America – from the “Indian”/”Native American” tribes who were living in it at the point in (was it) the 17th Century when the (European?) White Man originally began arriving in large numbers in order to “take the continent over”.

I may be in a small minority, but I have to register that I rather like the name “Washington Redskins”.

If that makes me a subconscious racist bastard, I plead guilty.

Mind you, the issue may not rest there.

Inevitably, where the USA goes, sooner or later, it seems, the UK follows.

Cue a English Premiership rugby club’s current dilemma …

See here for a piece that I spotted – as covered by rugby correspondent Chris Foy today upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL



About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts