Preaching From the “Bully Pulpit”
Both sides of the debate over the name of the Washington Redskins weigh in, but is it responsible?
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The Responsibility Project
Recently, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd summed up the debate over the fight to change the name of the Washington Redskins professional football team on the grounds that it’s a racial slur. While her family “may disdain the ineffectively megalomaniacal Daniel Snyder,” she writes, “they leap to the defense of the Redskins owner at the mere suggestion that he should consider the pleas of American Indians, 10 members of Congress, the president, several sports columnists, prominent publications, little sisters or anyone else who finds the team name offensive.”
Though Redskins owner Dan Snyder has been vilified for being insensitive to race, plenty of high-profile defenders have leapt to his aid, including Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. “It would be a real mistake – a real mistake – to think Dan, who is Jewish, has a lack of sensitivity regarding anybody’s feelings,” he said. USA Today reported that Jones and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell agreed in a fan question-and-answer session that for Snyder, sticking with the name is a matter of brand integrity.
Meanwhile, President Obama also addressed the conflict over the team name. “Obviously, people get pretty attached to team names, mascots,” he said. “I’ve got to say that if I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team, even if it had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it,” he told the Associated Press.
Erik Brady, of USA Today Sports, said that when Obama weighed in, “He was using the authority of his office, the bully pulpit.” He noted that a D.C. preacher is also waging war from his pulpit: “On any given Sunday, he has denounced the team name that so many in his congregation have loved all their lives.”
In recent days, Dowd points out, the Oneida Indian Nation held a “Change the Mascot” symposium at a Georgetown hotel; some big-name sports columnists have sworn off using the name; and USA Today’s Christine Brennan has said, “Try explaining and defending the nickname to a child. It’s impossible.”
Regardless of which side you support in the name change debate, do you believe that people in positions of political or religious authority are responsibly using their offices – or pulpits – to weigh in? Certainly in the name of freedom of speech, it is legal for anyone to publicly support or denounce this cause, but is it appropriate? Weigh in.