There’s a huge white lie that should be brought to Dan Snyder’s attention.
George Preston Marshall, the first owner of the Washington football team, did not pick the name ‘Redskins’ to honor the Native Americans on the team (back in 1933) or to honor William “Lone Star” Dietz, their “Native” coach, as Snyder and others have claimed.
An article in the Washington Lawyer by Jesse Witten (as explained by Robert McCartney of the Washington Post), dispels several myths about the team’s long-held history of the name and undercuts the NFL’s and the organizations defense of why they should maintain 81 years of tradition.
In a July 6, 1933, edition of the Hartford Courant, Marshall was quoted in an Associated Press story saying, “The fact that we have in our head coach, Lone Star Dietz, an Indian, together with several Indian players, has not, as may be suspected, inspired me to select the name Redskins.”
The team was originally based in Boston and called the Braves, but to avoid any confusion with Boston’s pro baseball team, also the Braves, which had the logo of a Natïve man in headdress, Marshall choose ‘Redskins’ so he could keep their Native logo.
These details are reportedly not refuted, but they were brought to the public’s attention by Witten, who is a lawyer for Amanda Blackhorse, Navajo, the woman who has officially taken the torch from Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee activist Suzan Harjo with respect to today’s present challenge of the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
That case is currently pending in the trademark office, which has recently rejected several requests to trademark the name ‘Redskins’ by other plaintiffs. It has been considered “derogatory” term and a dictionary defined racial slur.
The Washington Post reported that “the history of rejections is ‘extremely positive’ for Indian plaintiffs.”
“The rejections are very standard and are very well supported,” American University’s Christine Haight Farley, a law professor, told the paper. “The examining attorneys cite numerous mainstream dictionaries. . . . The first and dominant meaning is a derogatory racial epithet.”
Snyder might find it even more challenging to defend his beloved team’s name now that the real piece of history has been revealed. Let’s hope he’ll stand on the right side of it.