The Washington Redskins have been the target of prickly commentary recently, not for anything related to football, but for their nickname, or mascot.
And no question, "Redskins" is offensive. It's so obvious, isn't it?
What isn't so obvious is the offensiveness of so many other NFL mascots.
Sometimes, it's the players who should be offended, sometimes the groups symbolized by the mascots, sometimes both. For example:
Does a player really want to be called a Patriot, what with the Orwellian Patriot Act, and right-wing radicals who insist on associating themselves with the Founding Fathers while linking those expressing different views with Benedict Arnold?
Does a player wish to be associated with the Jets, considering the gloomy state of air travel these days, what with slow-moving security lines, lost luggage, missed connections, cramped seating, late arrivals, delayed departures and the long-vanished aura surrounding the technological fact of flying itself?
Does a player want to be part of a franchise called the Titans, a name that evokes Titanic, a name that evokes epic disaster?
Raiders, Buccaneers and Vikings — these names represent Old World terrorists — gangs that made their livings through rape, plunder, torture, extortion, kidnapping, murder. Not good role models.
Saints. Surely, players don't want to be called saints. After all, they are hardly that, on a team with a dubious legacy of bounty hunting, to say nothing of occasional failed drug tests. And it's unlikely that real saints, secure and peaceful in their heavenly halos, would want something as crude and violent as a football team named for them.
Cowboys. Another name that insults both the players and those evoked by the mascot. Do today's mighty macho men of the gridiron want to be called boys? On the flip side, do real cowboys — hardworking, unassuming — want to be associated with prima donna athletes who beat their chests just for doing their jobs?
Bills. A mascot name that makes sense only if said in conjunction with its city, Buffalo, and then it evokes William F. Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, a shrewd showman who expertly dressed up genocidal Old West realities into warm and fuzzy myths. Another bad role model.
Noble creatures of the wild don't need their inherent, transcendent dignity infringed upon by any team's arrogant co-opting of their names. We're talking, of course, about Lions and Bengals and Bears. Oh, my. Ditto Dolphins, Colts, Broncos, Eagles, Panthers, Seahawks, Cardinals, Jaguars, Falcons, Ravens and Rams.
The nicknames Steelers and Packers might have honored the working class back when pro football itself was working class. But nowadays, it's next-to-impossible for average wage earners to afford to attend an NFL game, whether in Green Bay, Pittsburgh or wherever. To promote those teams' names (or "brands" as the marketeers would have it) as if somehow honoring steelworkers and meat packers is capitalism at its most cynical.
A team with the name Giants is an insult to anyone suffering from a runaway pituitary gland. It makes sport of a heartbreaking handicap. Besides, Goliath, perhaps the most famous giant, was, in fact, a loser. Beaten by a mere kid with a slingshot. Further, to quote Wilt Chamberlain, himself a famous giant, "Nobody loves Goliath."
Chiefs. See Redskins. Plus, the name doesn't make sense in a team sport. Everyone can't be a chief. Chaos would surely ensue.