President Obama says the Washington Redskins should think about changing their name. Many moons ago, I wrote about Indian team names and mascots for National Review.
People don’t name teams after things they hate. A team name is designed to project some quality fans and athletes can admire and emulate, whether it’s toughness (Georgia Bulldogs), ferocity (Michigan Wolverines), or regional pride (Kansas Jayhawks). The Michigan State Spartans use what is basically an ethnic term, albeit a classical one, to convey a sense of military vigor. (Is there a team anywhere in sports called the Athenians?) This is, at bottom, a sign of respect-and it should come as no surprise that many people believe they honor Indians when they name teams after them.
I still believe that, though I’ve hemmed and hawed over the particular question of the Redskins’ name.