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Baffoe: I'm Fighting Ignorance By Ignoring A Team Name

By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS) I saw a picture on Twitter Monday night during the earlier of the two NFL games that caused me to react in a combination of sadness and scorn at a time when I'm usually trying poorly to make sports not so serious business.

Here it is. You can probably guess which team that happy couple are fans of. At least somebody from the opposing fanbase didn't let them get all the justified viral reprimand.

This came a few days after a typically unproductive argument I engaged in—and, yes, I am fully aware that I was on a fool's errand in doing so—with a rather blunt anonymous guy regarding the possible name change of the D.C. pro football team. His argument boiled down to me needing to shut up because I was a politically correct loser.

He embodies all that is ignorantly loyal in the stupidest of fans who want their sports to be forever sepia-toned and to resist all logical thinking. Anything else is a threat to their very being and must be fervently combated. We can never accept that what we've long believed is wrong.

Ya know, things like your favorite football team playing better in cold weather, your favorite players and coaches actually having to be the heroes you convince yourself they are off the field, or your favorite team having a name that is not fantastically racist.

Exposing such notions as severely flawed isn't usually received with, "You make some valid points—perhaps I should reconsider my outlook here." Rather, it's more often met with the defensive flinging of rhetorical feces. They are the sports equivalent of climate change deniers or evolutionary skeptics, and at the risk of crossing into argumentum ad populum, they at best cannot be taken seriously and at worst are toxic to the culture.

As Dave Zirin points out, "History tends to be unkind to those who make bold proclamations against change." So I refuse to help perpetuate ignorance or even remotely connect myself to the willfully stupid in at least one way any longer. A la NFL Bigfoot Peter King, sort-of-godfather of silly online columns like this Bill Simmons, and several other writers, you will no longer see me refer to the Washington NFL team by its name here in this column.

While I make this choice for what I see as a moral obligation to intelligence on various levels and for the sake of avoiding hypocrisy, I also think team owner Daniel Snyder is an acidic turd vomited upon society by a tumor made of used hair gel, and he really wants the team name to remain forevs.

The last thing I want is to help Snyder in any way, and even in the smallest of ways if I can let my silence speak a greater volume and help to point out what an obtuse, Napoleonic horse dingleberry that sack of suck wrapped in a suit that costs more than the median income of half of D.C.'s residents is, even if it is barely a whisper compared to the omission by the likes King or Simmons, then I will gladly take a stand against racially insensitive images while also getting to enjoy a touch of schadenfreude, too.

Now stop for a moment, ignorant people, because I know what you want to type in all caps with a smattering of spelling errors, but that team name is racist. There is nothing you can say that makes that not true. Struggle to defend your comfort with this aspect of ignorance by citing polls or making this a really messed up issue of freedom vs. political correctness. In the end, you'll merely be grasping at straws in an attempt to have some racism be okay (and failing to realize that if you need to try so hard to show something isn't racist to a large group of people who think you're wrong, then it's racist). When The Onion is pointing out how dumb you are, you've lost.

A significant number of Native Americans find the name to be at best insulting and at worst the most negative term one can describe them with. They are authors and intellectuals like Sherman Alexie who says, "At least half the country thinks the mascot issue is insignificant. But I think it's indicative of the ways in which Indians have no cultural power. We're still placed in the past. So we're either in the past or we're only viewed through casinos," and others who have called out the B.S. defenses of bad team name supporters.

They are also planning to protest games in which Washington participates. And they also seem to have the support of some important people around the league. An ad campaign has been launched—money actually being spent to draw attention. This is an issue that is not going away, no matter how hard anyone wants to condemn the offended or those who understand the offense, as the American culture of victim blaming is wont to do. Your illogical enjoyment of a team name does not supersede the dignity of a people.

But, hey, I'm probably just a PC libtard and therefore should have no credibility, right? The thing is, you don't get to say what is not racist just because you're comfortable with it or own clothing that has the name on it or like to play dress up with face paint and feathers. Nor do you get to use "PC" as a discrediting term—PC means not being prejudiced, so trying to make it a pejorative makes you sound really asinine.

"Haha, look at the loser who doesn't want to degrade others based on skin color!" Same with condemning the PC thing as being a liberal or left-leaning trait, which is an insult to intelligent independents and conservatives and people who'd rather not bring their political party affiliations into sports and can differentiate between fun and just plain wrong. Defending your use of pejoratives by using other pejoratives is a really bad way of trying to gain credibility.

And I know you want to use the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as a way to whitesplain an inconsistency in the discussion of how incredibly awful Native American imagery is for sports teams. As an Irish American from one of this country's biggest Irish American neighborhoods, I have never heard Notre Dame's team name considered as a negative by anyone; rather, it tends to be the one poor piece of counterevidence used in this debate because it's the most prominent name and mascot of a white subculture along with the Boston Celtics, a subculture that does not experience today any tangible prejudice.

But, hey, if a movement fueled by cogent arguments gained enough to traction to change it (or at least the arguably unnecessary mascot), I'd put up no fight. I don't root for the name, I root for the collective of participants. The name of a team does zero toward winning games. The same coach that in his locker room speech extols the virtues of being a Wildcat would accomplish the same if the team name was the Bulldogs. Otherwise what UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slug would even take the field or court?

And let's stop taking one specific issue of race in this country and demanding that is be measured against others. It belittles the original argument and works only to find loopholes toward making certain types of bigotry condonable. The name Fighting Irish is not the issue here. Native Americans as oppressed peoples is not the same thing as African Americans as oppressed peoples (and stop with the "They call each other that name" that is equally as dumb when applied to either the R-word or the N-word), and both deserve their own examination and respect without being forced into some sad competition of who white people screwed over more. I don't care to hear people on my side cite us not using "Blackskins" or "Yellowskins" for a team name either. Stay on topic, and focus on how really stupid it is to celebrate or merely condone a name that embodies a history of oppression and genocide.

This is its own issue, independent of all the other vile forms of prejudice and bigotry in this country and needs to be treated specifically. For my small part, I feel that refusing to endorse the team name by using it in print will add to the slowly growing movement of writers who understand the absurdity in 2013 of using a racial epithet in sports. The only real obstacle to a new name in D.C. is Snyder's crappy hubris and Roger Goodell's fear of a (what would be likely temporary) drop in merchandise sales. Those are not the sturdiest of walls, though. The world's largest sports network, while notably willing to ask how high when Goodell tells it to jump, has still examined the possibility of omitting the name from its stations.

More writers and talkers and sports participants will follow suit. Change looks to be coming. And I'm going to get on the right side of history now.

Jeff Pearl
The author. (credit: Jeff Pearl)

Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for, Tim corrupts America's youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim's inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don't follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago's Beverly To read more of Tim's blogs click here.

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