About those team mascot names
Saturday, November 23, 2013 8:36 PM
It seems everyone, including President Obama, weighed in on the Washington Redskins. Not their season, mind you, but their name.
It turns out a lot of people are offended by the term "Redskins" and have lobbied for a name change.
Generally speaking, political correctness is also offensive. Everyone has to tiptoe, even to the point, or so it seems, that only comics of the same race, religion or political stripe can make a joke about that race, religion or political party. We do seem to go out of our way to be offended these days.
Take the more recent example of a TV commercial aired by Kmart to advertise Joe Boxer underwear. A row of men are lined up behind a cloth-draped table on which they set the handbells they have just finished playing. The table is whisked away and reveals the men, while formally attired above the waist, are only wearing underwear below the waist. The concert is not over, we learn, as the men twitch their hips from side to side, the sound of bells synchronized with their movements. The insinuation is obvious. Or should be. If you haven't figured it out yet, get to a computer and search for it on YouTube or Google.
IT'S FUNNY. IT'S CUTE. Suggestive? Well, not really in a sexual way, unless the concept that a man's nether regions can create musical sounds is sexy to you.
But so much dust got kicked up about the commercial on social network sites. Meanwhile, Victoria's Secret continues to parade surreal models in less clothing than Miley Cyrus wore on stage during the Video Music Awards, and they're nearly as suggestive as Cyrus' twerking.
OK, so what do Joe Boxer and Victoria's Secret have to do with the Washington Redskins, you ask. Well, not a thing really, other than providing an opportunity to reference more current news than the uproar about the Redskins' name.
Anyway, back to the football teams and mascots. Never having been a real fan of hyphenated Americans, the one PC phrase I can and do subscribe to is "Native American." The people who occupied these United States long before ole Chris Columbus set sail without a GPS and quite possibly with a magnet attached to his ship's compass are not and were not Indians. Of course, they were not really Americans either, but the point is the term "Native American" more appropriately describes the people whose land the government usurped. So, that's the first problem with the mascot name. The next problem, already pointed out by other columnists, including South Carolinian Kathleen Parker, is that the term "redskin" is not exactly complimentary.
Sure, the argument can be and is made that the "Redskins" moniker is intended to reflect all the finer qualities assigned to Native Americans in a most stereotypical way: tough, fast, hardy, strong. In other words, the moniker is supposed to reflect the team's strength in much the same way "Bears" is supposed to strike fear into the Chicago team's opponents. "Bears" has nothing to do with Chicago. C'mon, how many bears have you ever seen wandering the streets of the Windy City?
ALL OF THIS IS TO SAY that, at least in the case of the Washington football team, it might well be time to rethink the mascot and make a change. And if the Seminoles are offended, FSU might have to consider doing the same.
Animal names are generally safe. Of course, the debate about whether USC really glorifies a rather disgusting and illegal sport by using the gamecock as its mascot will likely go on for years to come, but so what. That's no more offensive than the concept of a wild jungle tiger tearing its opponents to shreds. If PETA will just focus on real cases of animal abuses, those names are probably still safe.
But as more and more people find more and more reasons to be offended, there is a possible solution, best exemplified by the auto industry, which has gotten away from using the animal kingdom in naming its cars and trucks. A good many of today's cars and trucks are assigned letters and numbers, such as MKZ, F150, 350Z.
Perhaps the national and college athletic teams should follow suit. After all, who could be offended by fans rooting for the Washington 0s? And right now, gauging by the way most Americans feel about elected officials in Washington, a zero might be more appropriate.
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email email@example.com ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.