This remark was made in a public place. There were dozens of people around. There were a couple of startled expressions but no one said a word.
This Senator went on to be re-elected repeatedly. They named roads and buildings after him. Near the end of his career the entire Senate turned out to honor him at a dinner in the Capitol where people who should have known better hailed him as one of the Senate’s icons.
In contrast, Donald Sterling’s remarks were made in private. When they were publicized the public’s outrage was immediate and overwhelming. The message was clear and undeniable: Times have changed. We are not going to tolerate this kind of behavior any more.
Daniel Snyder would do well to take note. He has steadfastly ignored the growing chorus of Native Americans, journalists, public officials, and activists who find the word “Redskins” offensive.
In his defense, Snyder didn’t name the team. It was part of the equity he purchased in 1999. Plus, it is of value not only to him, but also to others in the NFL who share in pooled royalties from merchandise and broadcasting. A name change would clearly have broad and significant financial implications.
Understandable as this may be, the simple truth is that this issue isn’t going away and can’t be papered over. Times have changed and the tide is running against the Old Guard. Our society increasingly has little tolerance for racism, sexism, and all the other ‘isms’ that keep us separate and apart.
It is part of our quest to form “a more perfect union” and a reflection of a growing awareness that our seemingly independent lives are rooted together beneath the surface and tied to a common source. We cannot diminish others without diminishing ourselves.
The name “Washington Redskins” may be historical, but it is on the wrong side of history. It’s time to let it go and move on.