Once again, the Washington Redskins find themselves in court, defending their name and trademark against charges that it is racist and offensive to Native Americans. Surely there’s something to this, though I don’t want to get into arguments for and against the name here. Instead, I want to pose a question that seems important to settling this matter, but that doesn’t seem to be a part of the current court case.
The Redskins are not the only team with a Native American inspired name. There are also the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves, as well as the San Diego State Aztecs, the Utah Utes, and the Illinois Fighting Illini. They’re also not the only team named after a specific ethnic or national group. We’ve got the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the Michigan State Spartans, and the USC Trojans. What’s the difference? Is there something inherently wrong with making one’s athletic trademark a group of people, or is “Redskins” a unique outlier in this otherwise common practice? If there’s a morally relevant difference here, we should be able to identify it.
I have my own thought about this one, but I want to know what you think. So feel free to post comments or links.
About the Author
Elijah Weber is a graduate student at Bowling Green State University. He holds a Master's degree in philosophy from Colorado State University, and Bachelor’s degrees in sociology and philosophy from Chapman University. He currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife Laura, his son Brandon, and two cats.