President Obama is speaking to the nation right now. He is speaking eloquently as he always does about some clearly beneficial initiatives including free community college for some and raising taxes paid by the rich. But will these commonsense proposals be enacted? I fear they will not. With Congress in Republican hands, there is virtually no chance our nation will take even baby steps towards economic justice.
Republicans have demonstrated over the past thirty years that they will side with the rich and powerful over poor, working-class, and middle-income Americans every time. Yet many of the latter still vote for them. On the left, we can decry this irrationalism but it is of a piece with other areas where our collective wisdom is doubtful at best.
Yesterday, the Washington Post ran a front page article detailing how the Fritz Pollard Alliance has hit a brick wall in its attempts to speak to the Washington, DC, NFL franchise’s owner Dan Snyder about his team’s nickname which is a derogatory term for Native Americans. Retired players formed the Alliance to help African-Americans and Latinos gain opportunities to coach and manager in the NFL.
One would think that if, 1) members of a traditionally oppressed minority, like Native Americans, complain that a team name is a slur on their ancestry, 2) nobody uses the term to describe individuals because it is in fact considered to be offensive, and 3) a highly respected civil rights organization like the Fritz Pollard Alliance is calling for the name to be changed, then the overwhelming majority would agree that the name should be changed. One would be wrong. Most of the comments at WashingtonPost.com mock the Fritz Pollard Alliance and those supporting its position.
It’s hard to come up with a more bizarre example of herd mentality. There is no rational reason for fans to oppose a name change. They can still wear their old gear if they so choose and they can also buy new and different gear if they like. In no way, will there lives be negatively impacted.
It’s just as hard to see how the team itself would suffer. Yes, they would have to come up with a new name, logo, and uniforms. But professional franchises are always experimenting with their brand. Each year the team dons a minimum of four different brand new uniforms that it wears for home, away, and throwback games.
If anything, a loud announcement that the team will henceforth be called the Washington Red Hawks, or something similar, would be a boon for the owner. He would get positive buzz for a change and media and fans would be distracted from the team’s abysmal win-loss record during the fifteen years Snyder has been owner. Management must be aware too that fewer young people are interested in the NFL and it’s not too great a stretch to believe that they are exactly the people who would most welcome a new team name.
With everything to gain from a name change, the team’s management has made clear it is standing pat. With nothing to lose from a name change, scads of fans are outraged at the calls for it. In the face of this irrationality from the American sports fan, nobody should expect that we’ll embrace free college education or a slightly less regressive tax system any time soon.