It was January 26, 1992. I think. It could have been another day, earlier than that, but in my mind it was January 26, 1992 and the Washington R*dsk*ns were playing the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis. I feel like it had to be a big game, because there was a lot of commentary. But it could have been years before. It could have been just a regular football game, I’m not quite sure, but as a kid I cared not for any of it. I do recall, however, being at my best friend Rachel’s house and her dad, having grown up in D.C., was a Washington fan, and there was a game on her grandmothers large, floor model television.
Rachel and I were playing in her room when we decided to run out and get snacks. The game hadn’t yet started, but there were some people discussing the name of the football team. It could have been one of the sportscasters, it could have been an old player, maybe it was a Native American advocate, but someone said it was time for Washington to change their name and Rachel’s dad yelled, “Bullshit!” He didn’t want to hear any of that nonsense and he went into some tirade about it. We gathered plates and ran back to Rachel’s room, but I never forgot that moment because I wondered for years why anyone would want to change the name of a football team.
That is one of my “I grew up in white supremacy” stories. I was so sheltered and ignorant that I had no idea, for many, many more years, why that name would upset anyone. Then when I did know I realized there were many other sports teams that used Native Americans as mascots. And I was sickened by it. I knew better, and wanted everyone else to know better, and most importantly to do better.
That was 28 years ago. Twenty-eight years. For twenty-eight years this has been on my radar. I have rolled this idea over and over in my head, and this week, this week the Washington football team finally did something about it. That’s a long, frustrating time for anyone to wait for change. Now imagine how long the Native Americans have been waiting…
Thanks, Washington. I hope you have started a bigger change.