Last Tuesday, Art Monk and Darrell Green — two of the faces of the Washington Redskins franchise — did something on a radio show that was relatively innocent.
The two said that the Redskins should “seriously consider” changing their name. That the team should weigh a shift from a nickname which—to Native Americans—is considered as offensive as “nigger” is to African-Americans.
Here’s Monk, in his own words last Tuesday from a segment that aired on WTOP:
“As African-Americans, we are all sensitive to the nicknames that we’ve been tagged with over the years, so if Native Americans feel like Redskins or the Chiefs or whatever name is offensive to them, then who are we to say to them ‘No, it’s not’?
“It doesn’t matter if it offends me. If it offends them, then it’s an issue.’’
But just as soon as Monk and Green were being embraced for words that, in the Washington, D.C. area, were being described as courageous, they began backtracking in a manner as embarrassing as a high school kid explaining “what had happened was…”
Here’s Green — shifting to politically correct mode — in his own words on Washington’s 106.7 The Fan, on Friday after the story began to create a buzz:
“In no way I want to see the Redskins change their name. So that just makes that clear. And I’ll speak for Art, there’s no way he wants it, and I guarantee he didn’t say it, and I know I didn’t say it.”
In explaining his initial comments — for which he was praised — Green made a statement that placed him in the line of fire. Does Green really mean that we should have a conversation about a name that is offensive to a group of people, but do nothing beyond speaking about it?
Because if that’s what he means, then he just might have a problem with teams with hypothetical names like the Dallas Darkies, the Chattanooga Chinks and the Kentucky Kikes, but wouldn’t see the need to change them.
Just ask Native Americans how they feel about Redskins. Activist Suzan Shown Harjo has been trying to get the team to change their name for two decades and was actually excited about Monk and Green’s initial comments, telling The Sporting News “their comments were exactly the right thing to say.’’
Equally excited about Monk and Green’s comments was Ray Halbritter, of the Oneida Nation of upstate New York, where Monk played college ball at Syracuse. He said it was brave for Monk and Green, “to publicly speak out against the Redskins’ bigoted brand is an act of selfless courage — one that says the fight against prejudice is more important than any one individual.’’
The bottom line lies with team owner Dan Snyder, who has clearly explained that he will never change the name despite the fact that a dictionary describes the word as “usually offensive,” “disparaging” and “insulting.” And Snyder has the overwhelming support of fans in the Washington, D.C., area.
From activists to team owners to fans, it’s clear that many people have an opinion on what has long been a controversial topic.
And all seem passionate in sticking to their opinion.
It’s just a shame that over and over again many of our current and former athletes take a stand when they think what they say is cool, and then backtrack as if they’re in the midst of the “Cha-Cha Slide” when they start feeling the extreme heat.
Or, in this case with Monk and Green, the lukewarm air.