Will the ‘Skins’ be next?

By Brian Hoffman – Sports Editor

Down goes Aunt Jemima. Down goes Uncle Ben. Can the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians be far behind?

It’s now day 105 AG, or 105 days since Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus and all sports as we know them came to a grinding halt. I haven’t watched a live big league basketball, baseball or hockey game for 105 days and that’s a personal record, eclipsing the old mark by about 103 days.

There was some interesting news on the national scene last week. Quaker Oats announced it was “retiring” the Aunt Jemima brand of pancakes and syrup due to racist concerns. They had upgraded the clearly racist “Mammy” logo to a more modern looking African-American “Aunt Jemima” years ago but apparently that wasn’t good enough. And, by the way, is anyone naming their children “Jemima” these days?

Shortly thereafter, the Mars Company announced that it will be “evolving” their brand of Uncle Ben’s rice. The character on the box looks politically correct enough but, upon further research, I learned that “White Southerners once used ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’ as honorifics for older blacks because they refused to say ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’, and I’m sure you could apply that to ‘Aunt’ Jemima as well. Boy, you learn something new every day.

Mrs. Butterworth is also in the eye of the politically correct police, and I didn’t even realize she was black. The Cream of Wheat guy is also in the crosshairs and at this point I’m wondering what I can eat for breakfast and not feel guilty. I could go for a big bowl of Lucky Charms, but am I insulting the Irish if I do so?

And, while we’re at it, could the Quaker Oats brand oatmeal with the Quaker guy on the label be just as insulting? If you bring religion into this why are Quakers used to promote oatmeal? If someone came out with Rabbi Hiram’s bagels with a smiling Hasidic Jew on the label, how long do you think that would last?

With all these borderline offensive characters being retired to Uncle Remus’ briar patch, how is it the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians keep getting a pass? If the Land O Lakes butter people thought that cute Native American girl on the box might be offensive, how is grinning Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland baseball team better?

I go back a long way with this. The high school I graduated from was nicknamed “Indians,” and I never thought much about it. The school logo had a ceremonial chief in head dress and that usually adorned the yearbook and other school items like gym bags, book covers and seat cushions sold at football games.

At the football games our cheerleaders had a head band with one feather and, I must say, the girls looked pretty foxy as they did their Indian war dance in short skirts, yelling “scalp ‘em” and “skin ‘em.” I assume they don’t do that anymore, but in the ‘60s no one thought it offensive as many of the towns in the area had Native American names. Of course, those folks who originally lived in those areas were likely driven out by Europeans who kept the names but not the folks.

I’d be interested to know if the school board back in Souderton, PA has explored changing the nickname. When Blacksburg High changed from “Indians” to “Bruins” no one seemed to have a problem with that. I would hope my old high school would look into that, and I’d be 100 percent in favor of doing so.

As for the Cleveland Indians, that’s another story. They’ve already retired the “Chief Wahoo” logo, and after going 72 years without winning the World Series you can hardly use “tradition” as a reason to keep the name.

Chief Wahoo, former mascot of the Cleveland Indians.

If you don’t like the name “Indians,” how can you like the name “Redskins?” If they were the “Blackskins” or the “Brownskins” the name would have been changed a long, long time ago, but the Washington football team, of all places, is able to hang on to the name. Redskins’ owner(and that sounds really bad) Daniel Snyder is said to prefer to keep the name, but of the Washington football fans I’m friends with Snyder is not a very popular guy. In fact, he’s the one they usually blame for the team not being good for so many years.

This would be a perfect time to change the name. The team has a new coach and an improved roster and a new identity would not only be exciting but a vehicle to sell a lot of new merchandise, and that’s always important to sports teams. Minor league baseball teams have been known to change their name for that reason alone.

More importantly, with the protests against racism we’ve had for the past month, it would be a nice gesture for the football team in our nation’s capital to change the moniker to something no one deems offensive. It’s time.

Protests against the name have been going on for years, but this time it’s different. I can remember going to Washington football games and a handful of Native Americans would be standing outside the stadium with signs. People rushed past them like they were those old cigar store Indians, paying little attention to who they were or what their cause was.

Now, however, with these nationwide protests, the uproar over confederate statues and, yes, the retiring of Aunt Jemima, it’s time for the owner of the Washington football team to go with another name. Do you really want to see people protesting in mass outside of Washington football games this fall? The folks who are pushing for real change have found out how to get someone’s attention, and it’s not pretty.

With that said, what name would you like to see? Being in Washington the first name that comes to mind is “Eagles,” but that’s already been taken by a team in the same division. And I thought about “Generals,” which would be a good name if it wasn’t the name used by the team that gets pounded by the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, and isn’t that ironic?

I’m thinking it should be a name symbolic of Washington, D.C., or even our country as a whole since it’s the capital. You might try for a name with two syllables so they can keep the “Hail to the Redskins” fight song and just change a few of the words. “Hail to the Putins,” for example, but not that.

If our readers have any ideas I’d love to hear them. E-mail me your suggestions at bhoffman@ourvalley.org and I’ll pass them along in a future column.

Just be careful what you eat for breakfast. The politically correct police might be “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.”

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