Phil Jackson Says Washington Redskins Nickname 'Highly Offensive

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 14, 2013

Apr 2, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA;   Phil Jackson looks on as the jersey of Los Angeles Lakers former player Shaquille O'Neal (not pictured) is retired during a half time ceremony during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the Staples Center.  Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Phil Jackson lent his voice to the growing majority of rational folks who find the Washington Redskins' name and mascot to be in poor taste. Appropriately, his take is pretty "Zen."

Though the controversy surrounding the name has been around for some time, a recent piece by Grantland's Dave Zirin helped reignite the contentious discussion. Although why anyone would honestly defend the use of a slur to represent a football team is admittedly beyond me.

Zirin lampoons Washington owner Daniel Snyder, who recently spoke out about his refusal to consider a name change. In the piece, Zirin brings up the valid point that the name was coined by the team's original owner, George Preston Marshall, a world-class bigot who was a huge fan of segregation and not particularly uncomfortable with the tradition of slavery.

Zirin wrote in an open letter to Snyder:

You surely know that Marshall was an arch-segregationist and your team was the last in the NFL to integrate. You probably see it as irrelevant to the name that Marshall had a deep affection for the slave South and minstrel shows or that for years he had 'Dixie' played before home games.

That's not exactly the kind of legacy Washington should be looking to embrace.

Jackson's liberal bent is pretty irrelevant in this particular case, though many of the replies to his tweet have already pegged him as a bleeding heart. What he's saying (in his own inimitably Jacksonesque way) is that the team's name is a relic from an era of backward thinking that no longer has a place in modern society.

As for his facetious suggestion to change the team's name to the Whigs, well, your guess is as good as mine. Maybe Phil is a fan of economic protectionism in mid-19th century American politics. He's also probably unaware that the Whig party splintered largely because half of it wasn't too keen on letting slavery go.

But let's not get wrapped up in the second half of Jackson's message (or his frustrating failure to use the right kind of "its" in his tweet).

The coaching legend is not alone in his sentiments. And although there's not really a logical defense for those that want to keep the old name, the debate does serve a purpose.

It doesn't appear as though Snyder (or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell) will budge on the issue, which is a shame considering that so many teams that formerly shared the nickname have moved on.

And then there's the fact that the Redskins play in the capital.

Everyone can agree that the nickname is a bad idea in any locale, but it's even worse in the hub of what's supposed to be a compassionate, progressive nation.

It appears that Jackson won't be returning to the coaching ranks anytime soon. So if he's going to use his downtime to chime in on social issues, more power to him. He picked an easy one here, but hey, it's a start.


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