It’s just not the time to be a Redskins fan anymore.
I was four years old on January 31, 1983 when the National Football League’s Washington Redskins defeated the Miami Dolphins to win the seventeenth Super Bowl game, 27–17. A native Washingtonian, I distinctly remember the Redskins’ victory as being the first moment that I had a sense of pride in my hometown. However, ever since that moment, the Washington Redskins franchise has let me down and helped me learn what a bad football team looks like, and also how to hate every negative thing that I think is wrong with America as a nation, too. In this franchise finally going too far in being all-around too bad, it’s finally time for me to stop being a Redskins fan.
As an enthusiast of excellence in sports, and more importantly a black Washingtonian (with a “little bit of Indian in me”…black folks know what I’m talking about), it’s time that I officially hang up my burgundy and gold satin jacket in my closet for good. As to whether the Washington Football Team should change their name? I can’t disagree with that sentiment. But insofar as me caring about the team even if that happens? Well, that’s the thing. I don’t even think I have that ability anymore.
I’ve been consistently let down by the Deadskins (thank my mother for that one) ever since one year after learning to love everything about DC and the Washington Football Team, they played the Los Angeles Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII and were soundly defeated, 38–9. It was an ugly blowout that showcased my heroes as old, slow, less talented and quite possibly less cool than the Los Angeles Raiders appeared on that afternoon.
As an eight-year old, I discovered reading in earnest, which changed my life (and started me down a path of maybe being not so into the Redskins, too). The first person I ever really loved reading about was legendary Redskins flanker Bobby Mitchell, who, in 1963 became the team’s first African-American player. As a student in the Marion Barry-era, fervently pro-black DC public school system, discovering a groundbreaking black football player (on my beloved hometown Redskins) was a huge deal! Much less of a huge deal was my grandmother explaining to me that then-Redskins owner George Preston Marshall was “a racist ass cracker motherfucker” (her words) and that by drafting Mitchell, the Redskins became the NFL’s last team to be integrated (during the height of the ramping up of the civil rights movement). Alas, as a source of pride, the Redskins had failed me again.
I had hope once again when celebrated black quarterback Doug Williams led the team to a victory in Super Bowl XXII in 1988. Though saddened after he was injured and replaced by quarterback Mark Rypien as the team’s starting quarterback the following season (which, my grandmother, of course, tied to the Redskins’ aforementioned racist tendencies), when Rypien led the team to Super Bowl XXVI four years later, I felt vindication. Maybe, being a fan of this team was not ultimately against everything I was learning to stand against as a human being.
Of course, two years later when the Washington Football Team lost 3–0 (no, that’s not a typo) to the New York Jets in a nationally-televised Saturday afternoon game on December 11, 1993, my resolve as a fan was again tested by a defeat that proved my heroes as now old(er), slow(er), (much) less talented and (absolutely) less cool than not just the L.A. Raiders (as they had a decade before), but possibly the National Football League as a whole. What I discovered a year later, though, has vexed me for 20 years and leaves me pretty much done with the team completely.
In 1994, I was sixteen-years old and taking Advanced Placement U.S. History as a junior in high school. I was reading about Native American tribal rights and the United States Government, when my mother just happened to mention that my great-great-grandfather was a full-blooded Patawomeck Indian. Thus, like so many other black folks, my mother said, “[I] had a little bit of Indian in me.” Of course, while reading in order to finish the chapter and various historical assigned readings, I noted the use of the term “red skin” started off as a positive term used by the Delaware Indians to describe their face and body painting.
At sixteen I also became obsessed with the soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, which meant that I watched a significant number of “western” films. It seemed as though in a bunch of westerns that I watched, there were bronzed white men in headdresses playing Native American “redskins” who were seemingly only obsessed with pagan spiritualism and the murder of white cowboys. When this extrapolated to also watching the Washington Redskins playing the Dallas Cowboys in what is pushed by the NFL as a spirited rivalry on a football field, (because, Cowboys versus Indians!) well, that’s when things started to feel a bit, well, awkward.
This didn’t make me want the Redskins to immediately change their name, though. It did strike me that the whole “Redskins” thing was completely stupid and showcased the NFL to be mirroring the anachronistic and oftentimes cringe-worthy motion picture industry. The biggest takeaway for me was the seeming lack of desire in American popular culture to showcase Native Americans with a shred of decency or individuality afforded to white Americans that was totally racist and completely wrong on every level.
My final straw with the Washington Redskins comes in the personage of current Washington Football Team starting quarterback Robert Griffin III. A 2012 top drafted black quarterback at the height of post-racial angst by all hypenated Americans wanting equal rights and diverse representation in American culture, he’s in the right place at the wrong time. In a cruel twist of poetic justice, the one Washington Redskin player who, in his success, could ameliorate long-standing black issues with the Redskins and possibly open a forum for aggrieved Native Americans, has failed at everything.
RG3 has played in 32 of 37 total scheduled games in his two-plus years in Washington. He’s proven to be exciting, but the success that he has had has been foiled by epic moments of falling short, including a brutal knee injury in a playoff game in season one, being completely flattened by a tackler in a Week 12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in season two, and finally, being wheeled off the field after suffering a disclocated ankle during the current season.
As a potential advocate for the Redskins changing their name, the Washington Football Team’s captain (and one of the league’s leaders in brand endorsement dollars earned), instead of waiting to read Gyasi Ross’ brilliant Huffington Post letter about being black and not supporting the Redskins name, he said this sad and highly frustrating thing in response:
“When it comes to those conversations, it’s just not the time. And I understand, trust me, I’m African American, I’ve grown up African American, and I understand oppression and all the things that come with it. But for us, like I said, as players, we have to control what we can control right now, and right now that’s the football season.”
Well then. With that being said, the final straw has broken my will. When it comes to supporting the Washington Redskins, the Washington Football Team, or anything associated with a team whose legacy has involved letting me down in literally every way since the age of four, I just can’t. I’ll agree with RG3. “It’s just not the time (anymore).”
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Cover image via www.frontpagemag.com