Rick Snider: The time will come for a change to the 'Redskins' name

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If I insult you, even unintentionally, are you still insulted?

Am I allowed to decide if you're insulted? To not change my actions when told they're harmful? To decide for everyone what's permissible under my standards?

That's where the Washington Redskins and American Indians stand. Polar opposites unable to understand why the other won't alter its viewpoint.

And the team's fans will be caught in the middle eventually.

"A Community Conversation About the Washington NFL Team Name" at the National Museum of the American Indian on Thursday continued 20-plus years of dispute on whether the term "Redskins" insults American Indians.

"Folks say ouch, they mean ouch," said the Rev. Graylan Hagler, national president of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice. "The reality is the reality. We should regard their truth as truth."

This isn't a demand for the team to change its name. It is a request to resist immediately saying no.

Many Redskins fans believe the team's name isn't racist. Certainly Washingtonians aren't purposely picking a fight. But if the term isn't derogatory, then why are some American Indians offended?

Not that all American Indians are insulted. While covering a story on Indian reservations in North and South Dakota a decade ago, I asked Sioux leaders whether they were offended by the team's name. They said football was inconsequential to them and they couldn't care less about the team or its name.

Redskins fans counter that it's a small subset of people who are offended, so why bother changing? Well, the American legal system often protects the rights of one versus the many, even if the benefits of many outweigh the individual. It's called the scales of justice.

Some Redskins fans consider the name an issue of heritage. The same argument was made by supporters of the Southern rebel flag from the Civil War that African-Americans consider an offensive reminder of slavery. You don't see that flag flying atop Southern state legislatures anymore.

The word "Redskins" is as offensive to some American Indians as the N-word is to African-Americans. That term is no longer commonly used after the white community pressured itself to stop. Yet the American Indian community doesn't receive the same consideration.

"We have not made this culturally unacceptable," Hagler said.

But let's get to the bottom line -- will the team ever change its name, as more than 2,000 high schools and colleges with nicknames related to American Indians have?

Yes -- but not anytime soon. It may take another generation, but all things change and the team will one day alter its name.

Fans will get mad. Some will cancel their tickets. But it's not fans who will force a change, because the massive boycott needed is unobtainable.

It will take corporate sponsors like FedEx protesting by not spending mega-millions before Snyder or the NFL considers a name change. That type of education of corporate America takes decades.

One day, fans won't sing "Hail to the Redskins" after touchdowns, but something else will follow.

It always does.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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