What's in a Name?

NOW that professional football's Super Bowl is behind us, perhaps it's time to calmly discuss the fitness of certain sports names, symbols, and mascots.

This year's Super Bowl winners, the Washington Redskins, are the prime target of native Americans who are offended by what they consider denigration, even desecration, of their traditions.

Without a doubt, the word "redskin" is pejorative and demeaning to native Americans. Its use amounts, no doubt unintentionally in most cases, to parody of American Indian culture. With its emphasis on skin color, the term assaults Indians' very identity as a people who have all the pride, sensitivity, inventiveness, and wisdom of any other race of mankind.

"Braves,Fighting Illini," "Chiefs these appellatives sound innocuous enough. But combine them with feathers, tomahawks, war bonnets, and other symbols - which when used by tribe members have special, often sacred, significance - and it becomes clearer why the National Congress of Indian Tribes and the American Indian Movement are determined to end what they see as one more callous and inhumane experience on top of the many they've endured in the five centuries since Columbus reached the New World.

A number of athletic teams, at all levels, have already done the right thing by adopting alternative names, mascots, and symbols. Dartmouth College's Indians became the Big Green, for example, and Stanford University's Indians became the Cardinal.

Pride is a big factor in sports, and abuse - intentional or not - of a people's culture and history is nothing to be proud about.

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