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Controversy over ‘Redskins’ name heats up in both Washingtons

The controversy over Native American mascots is reaching a fever pitch in both Washington's, amidst calls to drop the Redskins moniker from Port Townsend's high school and Washington D.C's NFL team. (

The controversy over Native American mascots is reaching a fever pitch in both Washington’s amidst calls to drop the Redskins moniker from Port Townsend’s high school and Washington D.C’s NFL team.

While there have been demands to change the name in Port Townsend over the years, for the first time, a panel of local residents is officially recommending the school replace Redskins with something not offensive to Native Americans.

“The Redskins name needs to be retired with honor and dignity,” Mary Ann Seward, a consultant who was hired to facilitate the committee, told The Peninsula Daily News.

“We need to accept that the culture has gone beyond us and that it is time to change.”

In the meantime, ten members of Congress have jumped into the longstanding fray over the Washington Redskins name, sending a letter to the team owner, league owner and others demanding a name change.

“Native Americans throughout the country consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos,” said the letter.

Not everyone agrees. Longtime local talk show host Ken Schram argued on The Luke Burbank Show Thursday plenty of Native Americans call it an issue “ginned up” by guilty, “politically correct” white people. He argues many Native Americans he knows don’t consider names like Redskins or other Indian monikers worthy of concern.

A recent Associated Press-GfK poll shows that nationally, “Redskins” still enjoys widespread support. Nearly four in five Americans don’t think the team should change its name, the survey found. Only 11 percent think it should be changed, while 8 percent weren’t sure and 2 percent didn’t answer.

But even if just a small minority finds the term offensive, KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney argued that’s enough to warrant a change.

“A lot of Native Americans, it may be true, are not offended by the Redskins name, but a lot of them are.”

It’s an issue that’s personal to Tangney. He’s a graduate of Seattle University, which changed its name from Chieftains to Red Hawks in 2000 to eliminate any controversy.

Tangney didn’t find the name offensive, considering it a noble reference. But he argued it shouldn’t be up to people who aren’t offended to make such a determination.

“Even if I accept that, for a lot of people it’s also seen as a sign of disparagement and racism. And when you have a symbol that does both, get rid of it.”

As for the Redskins controversy, the Port Townsend School Board will ultimately decide the fate of the name for the high school. In D.C., it’s much more complicated. The owner of the NFL team has vowed to fight any name change. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is defending it, saying in a statement the name “From its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context.”

Tangney doesn’t understand why there’s such a staunch defense of the name and argued the solution is simple.

“Find something that doesn’t offend half the country.”

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