My husband and I are fans of a certain professional football team in Washington, D.C. Both of us grew up around the D.C. metro area and have rooted for the Redskins for most of our lives. But several of our friends have criticized us for wearing the team’s jerseys because they say the team’s nickname and logo are plainly racist. I can totally see that, but at the same time, how do we show our team spirit without wearing the jerseys and cheering for them by name? And if we agree that the team’s logo and nickname are racist, are we morally obligated to stop being fans until they change their name and logo? Do we just root for them in private (which maybe isn’t a bad idea this year given how bad they are) and get rid of our gear that has the offensive name and logo? What’s a conflicted fan to do?
Ah, yes, the once glorious and now hapless Redskins! The Elderly Aunt became a fan back during the Eddie LeBaron era. For decades she could armchair quarterback with the best of them and much better than some of the actual Redskin quarterbacks. So, dear reader, she does get where you’re coming from.
… the older the Elderly Aunt gets, the more she believes that tradition may explain why we use sexist, racist, demeaning behavior and/or language, but that tradition neither excuses nor justifies its continued use once we know better.
To her, it is impossible to deny that the name “Redskins” supports morally wrong ethnic stereotyping. And no matter how vigorously fans claim they don’t have an ethnic stereotyping bone in their bodies, by rooting for the Redskins, to her, they are complicit in that stereotyping.
Nor does she think those of us who are not Native American can avoid the issue by rolling our eyes and mumbling about political correctness run amuck. The Elderly Aunt—who was once a blonde—would feel entitled to righteous outrage, should a woman’s sports team name itself the Dumb Blondes. Furthermore, she would expect those of you who are neither blonde nor female to get why she is outraged and join her in demanding a name change.
So what are you to do, as a conflicted fan who has long rooted for a sports team with a name you now acknowledge as offensive?
Well, dear reader, the Elderly Aunt might be opinionated, but she tries not to be bossy. No way would she, herself, wear her Redskins paraphernalia in public, but she believes strongly that whether you do or don’t is entirely up to you. The one thing she would suggest is that you don’t kid yourself about why you’re feeling conflicted. Are your knickers in a twist because your friends are giving you a hard time? Or because you feel uncomfortable supporting something that promotes outdated (and morally wrong) ethnic stereotyping? Be honest with yourself. If the name doesn’t bother you, keep on waving those burgundy and gold pompoms. If it does bother you, acknowledge your moral discomfort, then decide whether the pleasure (and heartbreak) you get from supporting the Redskins is worth going against the niggles of your conscience. In other words, should you truly walk the walk, or are you comfortable detouring off the straight and narrow for personal enjoyment?
The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday. And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”
Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions).