Few mascots and logos in American professional sports conjure up such controversy as the Washington Redskins.
While some claim it represents the storied history of Native Americans, others consider it to be a racial slur and highly offensive.
The discussion around the usage of "Redskins" has now been waged for many years. Despite many clamoring for a change, the mascot has remained since 1933, when it originated in Boston prior to the franchise's move to Washington.
In the following slides, we'll discuss the controversy and provide some reasonable alternatives in the scenario where the Redskins are forced to change their long-serving nickname.
The controversy has deep roots.
While it's been a polarizing name for most of its history, opposition really started to heat up in 1992.
Twenty-five years after the Redskins originally trademarked the brand, a group of Native Americans filed a lawsuit against the nickname. The case was later dismissed after the Supreme Court refused to take it up.
Years later, while the Redskins were attempting to build a new stadium inside the city, senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell introduced legislation that would have required the team to change its nickname before building such a structure in Washington.
According to The Washington Post, then-owner Jack Kent Cooke, unwilling to comply, eventually moved the construction outside of the city.
Throughout the Redskins' history, government, social groups and Native Americans have attempted to get the name changed. So far, no effort has been remotely close to successful.
The controversy reentered the public sphere last week when a symposium at the National Museum of the American Indian went on the attack against Native American mascots in professional sports.
The Redskins, according to The Washington Post, were predictably one of the biggest targets.
A month earlier, with the Redskins reemerging in the NFC playoffs, Washington mayor Vincent Gray suggested that a name change should be discussed if the Redskins want to move back into the city, according to The Post.
"I think that if they get serious with the team coming back to Washington, there’s no doubt there’s going to have to be a discussion about that, and of course the team is going to have to work with us around that issue," Gray said.
The Redskins currently play their home games in Maryland.
Last week, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggested that quarterback Robert Griffin III should help facilitate the change.
The narrative hasn't changed much, but the Redskins' sudden revival back into the public eye has certainly helped refuel the discussion.
Current fans already use the shortened "Skins" to describe the team, so officially changing it to the abbreviated version would be an easy and pain-free transition.
More importantly, dropping "Red" would altogether eliminate the inherent racism from the team name—which is the goal here in the first place.
Neil Irwin of The Washington Post outlined the idea further here:
Rename the team the “Skins.” Plain old “Skins.” It is a bit of a nonsense word for a mascot, but then so is the name of the Cleveland Browns (named for first head coach Paul Brown), or the New York Knicks (technically short for Knickerbockers, but just see how many fans at Madison Square Garden can tell you what a knickerbocker is).
Keep the burgundy and gold color scheme. Replace the face of an Indian chief on the helmet and logo with a picture of a football. Lose the Native American imagery altogether.
If the Redskins were forced to change their name, I find it hard to come up with an easier transition. It's a compromise both sides can make with relative ease.
There's a backstory here that could set the Redskins up with another easy transition.
When owner Daniel Synder was in the early stages of setting up an arena football team in Washington, he trademarked "Warriors" with an arrow logo. The league would later go under, and the Redskins would use the spear logo in 2002.
Dave McKenna of the Washington City Paper outlined that history:
Snyder bought the DC franchise rights for the AFL shortly after taking over the Redskins. He said back then that he was going to name the indoor team the Warriors, and registered trademarks for that name and for an arrow-and-feather logo and helmet design.
If the Redskins were forced to change, wouldn't "Warriors" be another easy switch?
The logo wouldn't have to change drastically, nor would the colors. Just the name.
If history and tradition remain important to the logo in Washington, a move back to the "Braves" could be one serious option.
The team originated in 1932 as the Boston Braves, but one year later changed to the Boston Redskins. After four years in Boston, the team moved to Washington.
Going back to the team's roots is one way to stay true to tradition while appeasing those who feel the "Redskins" label is offensive. Of course, satisfying that idea would likely include the Braves not using Native American imagery in their logos or mascots.
Certainly, this change rides on tradition, but it doesn't offer a huge step forward in moving past the Native American problem "Redskins" presents now.
If for no other reason, the "Federals" nickname fits because it flows with the brands of the other Washington sports teams.
The MLB team in the city is named the "Nationals," while the NHL is represented by the "Capitals." The Federals certainly fits that theme in the nation's capital.
However, such a move would likely require a complete makeover, including logos and colors. While potentially better in the long run (no remnants of Native American imagery, consistent with other local franchises), expecting the team and fans to get on board with such a radical idea probably isn't even worth considering.
Again, a move to "Natives" over "Redskins" would represent a worthy compromise for both sides.
While the team could keep its colors and tradition with Natives, the racial and offensive nature of the term "Redskins" would be put to rest. It would also put the team in a better position to truly honor the history of Native Americans in this country.
While certainly not a perfect answer (is there one?), the move isn't a radical one and could be welcomed without much rebuttal from the team and fans.
Now that the "Hogettes" have officially retired after 30 years, maybe the team could honor the fan tradition by calling them something similar.
"Pigskins" allows for the "skins" portion of the nickname to remain, which is something some will find very important. Also, the name obviously integrates a valuable part of the game: the actual football.
"Hogs" is more direct and to the point, but the Washington Hogs or Washington Warthogs both have a certain ring to them.
I'm not sure I could really envision the team being called either of these down the road, but both are worth considering if the Redskins are forced out of their moniker.
History, tradition and the color scheme are probably the most important factors in any potential switch.
The two names that best fit that trinity of change are the Warriors and Braves.
Owner Daniel Snyder could make the transition to Warriors in a snap, and both the colors and logo would be reminiscent of the Redskins days. It's a simple and effective way to continue what is appealing about the current setup while also moving on from the controversial Redskins moniker.
The Braves, the franchise's original name, has history and tradition on its side. The team also wouldn't need to alter the colors or logo much.
What do you think? Chime in with your name ideas in the comments section below.