FTB: For controversial mascots, go after name, not fans

Disclaimer: The Tulane Hullabaloo refrains from printing words that can reasonably be considered racial slurs. The Hullabaloo has therefore opted to limit and edit the use of Washington’s NFL football team name in this article. 

The sports world is not new to the concept of controversial mascots.

Between Chief Illiniwek, former mascot of the Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois and Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians, both teams have seen their fair shares of debate over controversial mascots. Recently, the Washington R–skins have faced increased backlash, having their team name labeled as offensive and derogatory.

Obviously, the team name is not courteous or politically correct. The name is a blatant insult to Native Americans.

There is little argument that needs to be made here: today’s widespread popular debate of the issue implies many Americans are on board with changing the name of the team. Some critics of the name, however, often take this controversy too far, accusing fans of the team of being racist or prejudiced themselves.

Most sports fans root for their own “hometown team,” the team from wherever a person calls home or wherever they currently live. For those who live around the Tulane community, these teams are, most notably, the New Orleans Pelicans and the New Orleans Saints. To people from the Washington-area, the R–skins are their hometown team. This team represents those from the D.C. area and, oftentimes, is the team these fans grew up watching and rooting for.

Fans of the team are not fans because of the name. They are fans because Washington’s team represents where they are from. The team doesn’t play for just any city — it plays for its hometown. Washington, to fans, is home, and Washington is their team, just as New Orleans rallies behind the Saints with the enthusiastic “Who Dat.” Critics sometimes forget this simple but crucial fact in the debate. Why should we criticize fans for rallying behind their hometown teams?

Yes, the American people should stand against any form of discrimination and use of derogatory language. Simply put, Washington’s team name is offensive and must be changed. That does not, however, give outsiders the right to critique or judge the fans who are rooting for their home. The selection of a team nickname is ultimately not their decision, regardless of their approval or disapproval of it.

Yes, they could hold protests. Yes, these fans could be more vocal in their disapproval. For most sports fans, however, protesting or boycotting one’s favorite team would be quite difficult emotionally, which is why we don’t see much of an opinion from Washington fans themselves: they do not want to see their team under any sort of flak or debate whatsoever.

Let us then turn our focus against the executive management of the organization that refuses to acknowledge the disgusting history which surrounds the team’s name rather than against the fans who support their hometown team.

Let’s go after the name, not the fans.

This is an opinion article and does not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo. Grant is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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