A Plea To Ditka, Others In ‘Redskins’ Debate: Stop Being Ignorant

By Adam Hoge-

What do Mike Ditka and the name “Redskins” have in common?

It’s time for both to go away. Now.

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Mike Ditka. (Jose More, Chicago Tribune)

Ditka may have won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears, but as he has proven time and time again, that doesn’t make him qualified to speak on certain topics.

In a recent interview with RedskinsHistorian.com, Da Coach gave us another prime example. Via the Washington Post:

“What’s all the stink over the Redskin name?” Ditka said. “It’s so much [expletive] it’s incredible. We’re going to let the liberals of the world run this world. It was said out of reverence, out of pride to the American Indian. Even though it was called a Redskin, what are you going to call them, a Brownskin? This is so stupid it’s appalling, and I hope that owner keeps fighting for it and never changes it, because the Redskins are part of an American football history, and it should never be anything but the Washington Redskins. That’s the way it is.

“Its been the name of the team since the beginning of football. It has nothing to do with something that happened lately, or something that somebody dreamed up. This was the name, period. Leave it alone. These people are silly — asinine, actually, in my opinion.”

Speaking of asinine:

“It’s all the political correct idiots in America, that’s all it is,” Ditka said. “It’s got nothing to do with anything else. We’re going to change something because we can. Hey listen, I went through it in the 60s, too. I mean, come on. Everybody lined up, did this. It’s fine to protest. That’s your right, if you don’t like it, protest. You have a right to do that, but to change the name, that’s ridiculous. Change the Constitution — we’ve got people trying to do that, too, and they’re doing a pretty good job.”

There’s way too much nonsense in here, so we’re going to have to break this thing down. Let’s go back to the top:

“What’s all the stink over the Redskin name?” Ditka said. “It’s so much [expletive] it’s incredible. We’re going to let the liberals of the world run this world.”

Ah, the crazy liberals are at it again. These days, blaming the liberals has become the standard crutch when someone really has no argument. I’ve never considered myself a liberal or a conservative. In fact, I hate politics all together. But if hating racism makes me a liberal, then by all means, call me a liberal.

“It was said out of reverence, out of pride to the American Indian.”

No it wasn’t. This lie has to stop.

The old story is that original owner George Preston Marshall changed the name from the Boston Braves to the Boston Redskins to honor the team’s head coach, William “Lone Star” Dietz, who claimed that he was a Native American. At the time, the team also had several Native American players.

And it is this story that has led to several prominent figures in the discussion — including current Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — to repeatedly say that the name “Redskins” was and is a name intended to honor Native Americans.

The problem is, that story isn’t true. And who debunked it? George Preston Marshall himself.

In a 1933 Associated Press story that was printed in the Hartford Courant, Marshall is quoted as saying: “The fact that we have in our head coach, Lone Star Dietz, an Indian, together with several Indian players, has not, as may be suspected, inspired me to select the name Redskins.”

No, like most team name changes, the reason was money. Having the same name as one of the two baseball teams in the same city — also the Boston Braves — proved to be a disaster. To make money, the name had to be changed. So Marshall moved the team to Fenway Park where the Red Sox played and named the team the “Redskins”.

It gets worse. While Snyder is busy referencing Dietz in letters to season ticket-holders and Goodell is dropping Dietz’s name in letters to Congress, it turns out that Dietz wasn’t even a Native American.

Oops.

Back to Ditka:

Even though it was called a Redskin, what are you going to call them, a Brownskin?

No, Mike. Because that’s racist too. Just like the original Redskins’ owner was. In fact, George Preston Marshall was so racist that in 1961, Stewart Udall, President John F. Kennedy’s secretary of the interior, had to threaten Marshall just to get the owner to sign African American players. According to the Washington Post, Udall sent a memo to Kennedy saying “if Marshall continued his ban on blacks, he would be denied the use of D.C. [later RFK] Stadium.”

“It’s been the name of the team since the beginning of football. It has nothing to do with something that happened lately, or something that somebody dreamed up.”

Another popular crutch. WHY WASN’T THIS AN ISSUE 81 YEARS AGO? Well, Mike, because 81 years ago it was socially acceptable for racist team owners to use racial slurs to name their teams. That fact that “it has nothing to do with something that happened lately” is exactly the point. People evolve. Cultures evolve. In America, we can admit our mistakes and change for the better. That’s what is happening, lately.

“It’s all the political correct idiots in America, that’s all it is,” Ditka said. “It’s got nothing to do with anything else. We’re going to change something because we can. Hey listen, I went through it in the 60s, too. I mean, come on. Everybody lined up, did this.”

I’m not sure why, but I’m going to give Ditka the benefit of the doubt here and assume that he isn’t insinuating that those who led the Civil Rights Movement were “politically correct idiots”. But I am going to give Mike some advice here: If you’re trying to shoot down a movement, don’t compare it to one of the most successful and important movements the United States of America has ever seen. Especially when they both are on the subject of racism.

You know what the Civil Rights Movement was? Progress. Significant progress. Did it solve everything? No. But it was progress.

So I am going to plead to Mike Ditka, Daniel Snyder, Roger Goodell and everyone else who pleads ignorance on this subject: Please, wake up. The nickname “Redskins” is a racial slur. Eliminating its use might not solve the plight of Native Americans in this country, but that doesn’t mean that eliminating a racial slur from America’s most popular sporting league isn’t worth our time. Because it is.

It’s progress.

Adam Hoge covers the Bears for 87.7 The Game and TheGameChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.