With great popularity comes great responsibility… or something like that.

For whatever reason, the NFL seems to be a mainstream battleground for social debate fairly constantly these days, and this offseason seems to really be amassing the headlines of this nature.  Whether it be the wrongful termination accusations of Chris Kluwe, the domestic abuse case with Ray Rice, the draft placement of Michael Sam, the double standard that exists between player and owner conduct, or the offensive nickname of one football franchise.

As far as I can remember, I have never once written about that last topic, as the Washington Redskins nickname is not really Vikings related and this is a Vikings blog.  Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum found an intelligent way to raise awareness of the issue in Minnesota, however, and dropped a call for action squarely at the feet of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.

The full text of her letter to Zygi Wilf, as transcribed here, reads as follows:

Dear Mr. Wilf:

Yesterday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled to cancel legal protections for the trademarked name of the National Football League’s Washington franchise because it is “disparaging to Native Americans.” The time for debate has ended – the name of the Washington franchise is clearly an offensive racial slur. I urge you, as an NFL team owner, to not remain silent on this matter any longer.
Thirty-one NFL franchises split the sales of their licensed merchandise equally. As you well know, when a shirt, cap, or jersey bearing the Washington team name is sold, the Minnesota Vikings share in the profit from that sale. After yesterday’s decision, NFL owners must now ask themselves if they want to continue to profit from a name so hurtful to our Native American brothers and sisters that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deemed it ineligible for federal protection. By taking a stand to change the mascot, you can send a very clear message to Native Americans and all Americans that your organization no longer wishes to benefit from the commercialization of that hateful slur.

In November, the Minnesota Vikings are scheduled to host the Washington franchise for a game on the University of Minnesota campus at TCF Bank Stadium. As the Vikings will be a co-host with the University on their campus, I would like to remind you of three facts. First, Minnesota has a strong Native American community and TCF Bank Stadium honors that community with a plaza recognizing each of our tribal nations. In addition, one of those tribal nations, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux, contributed to the funding of this stadium. Lastly, the presence of the Washington franchise with their racist name on the University of Minnesota campus would be in violation of the Board of Regents’ Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action Policy.

Mr. Wilf, I believe you are a man of integrity. Therefore I am calling upon you to publicly demonstrate leadership on behalf of your organization and the people of Minnesota by adding your voice to the millions of Americans who are calling for this racist mascot to be changed and for Native Americans to be treated with respect and dignity by the NFL. A strong condemnation of the Washington franchise’s name by the Minnesota Vikings Football Club will go a long way towards helping to change the mascot.

Today’s society is addicted to instant gratification and I think it is important to let tradition have a chance to stay intact before progression forever changes an entire institution.  However, when that tradition is profit generating racism, I’m not sure there is a very solid argument to make on it’s behalf.  Congresswoman McCollum has, in fact, made a pretty good argument against the Wilf Family standing idle on the subject.

I am curious to hear Mr. Wilf’s response to the letter, if there ever is one, but I am also wanting to get your opinion on the topic.  Vote below and hash it out in the comments section.

Adam Warwas (Founder) is a case study in how the human male can allow a hobby to turn into a life-consuming obsession. After serving for about three years as the Editor at Vikings Gab, he decided to branch off on his own and start Vikings Territory, hoping someone might accidentally visit the site from time to time. Now, he is thrilled to present you with one of the most comprehensive and analytical Vikings sites that you are going to find. More than anything, he hopes you enjoy reading VT as much as he enjoys putting it together.

51 COMMENTS

    • No, McCollum isn’t making a good case at all for Wilf “to speak out” because, you know, it’s not his team. And no, we’re not going to infect the NFL with this political correctness hypersensitivity that gets a CEO fired at Mozilla for not supporting same-sex marriage in 2008 although President Obama did not either. (So, if an internet CEO should step down because he supported same-sex marriage in freaking 2008, does that mean Obama should step down also being how he didn’t either?) The anti-Redskin lobby is comprised of a few organizations that want to play paddy cake with radical elitists who want to police everyone’s thoughts until we’re all living in their Orwellian Utopia where only they get to say what’s right and wrong. There’s always an outrage du jour needed to crusade against in their Shangri La. McCollum really ought to have more pressing issues to sink her teeth into.

      I could care less whether they change their name or not — they’ll still be the same crapfest of a franchise whether they’re called the Redskins or the Raging Fiddlesticks. But having worked at two different casinos in seven years and having lived in the Iron Range for four years with a roomate who was a member of the Ojibwe Tribal Council, I can assure everyone that most Native Americans don’t care nor are they offended by the Redskins name which was always intended to pay tribute to their culture. If anything, the NFL should ask them to change the name/logo because the notorious Native Brotherhood street gang uses it as a gang affiliation emblem (getting it tatooed to their arms/necks).

      But here’s a little known fact: Did you know that the term “Cowboy” actually was intended and phrased as an insult? It’s term was concocted back in the day as a means to ridicule a poor, dirty, illiterate ranch hand that would migrate from one farm to the next doing odd jobs for pennies and meals. They were essentially hobos looked down upon by the rest of society. Maybe they should change their name also. In fact, there’s many Scandanavians that take exception to the word “Viking” as well, so its just a matter of time before that’ll be considered offensive as well.

      What truly is an offensive name is the Packers because… well, they’re the Packers.

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  1. What would happen if you walked up to someone in Pine Ridge, South Dakota and asked,

    “Are there any _______ around here?”

    a. Redskins
    b. Indians
    c. Chiefs
    d. Braves

    All of these names could be construed as offensive in this context. Only one of these names is a historically derogatory name for Native Americans.

    For perspective, what would be the equivalent for another culture? The Asian synonym of the Washington Redskins would be something along the lines of a professional football team called the San Francisco Orientals. The Asian, and more specifically Japanese, synonym to the Atlanta Braves would be a professional baseball team called the Seattle Samurai. Guess which one of these sports team names would be found more offensive.

    While there are many more and important issues in the world that we should be addressing; the fact that in 2014 there is a team in the most popular sports league in the United States called the Redskins is ridiculous. An overreach of politic correctness is one thing*, showing a shred of respect for a culture we have so thoroughly exploited is another.

    (*RIP Washington Bullets)

    With that being said, forcing Washington to change the name would most likely infringe upon someone’s First Amendment rights and would create a negative backlash that would harm more than it would help. If Dan Synder had any brains he would have realized by now that he is on the wrong side of history. Hopefully more individuals and organizations in the NFL will act through indirect means to help Mr. Synder come to senses.

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    • There is a lot more to the term Redskin than just you seem to be alluding to. There were actually programs in the 1700’s where redskin was the term for a bloody Native American scalp. Programs like this continued as early American’s tried to exterminate the Native American population. Maybe redskin doesn’t exclusively refer to this, but it certainly has associations to that. I get that once something is wrong it is a tad crass to debate which is the worse of the two, but it seems calling an Asian person Oriental is not quite to the level of offense that redskin is.

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      • I completely agree with you. Oriental is one of the less offensive derogatory slurs that has been used throughout our history(even though judging level of racial offense is offensive in itself). I used it as an example to show that if Oriental is offensive, Redskin should be unacceptable given the connotations of both words.

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    • I, too, hope that public opinion and other indirect forces will convince Mr Snyder to rethink his stuff. The problem I foresee, however, is that it leaves a lot of room for error. If racist speech becomes permissible or in vogue with a majority of people, does it then become OK to name a team something offensive? If someone buys the Vikings or another team, and they decide to name the team after something offensive and refuses to bow to indirect pressures, should we be OK with that?

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  2. We can’t always make everyone happy. Some native americans like the name! If we really would like to settle this issue in all fairness why are people other then native americans deciding its fate? Hold a vote. You must be >50% native american in order to vote. Now can we please help stop human sex trafficking, child malnourishment, and other more pressing topics. This is all PR for the politicians it makes me sick. P.S Since a vote likely won’t happen I hope Dan Snyder sticks to his guns after all, its his team! Whats with people trying to make owners do things they dont want to do ala Donald Sterling!?!?!

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    • Owners do not by default own everything of, about, or pertaining to their teams. They own teams but there is also a group of other owners and as a body they get to make decisions. In addition to that, they buy teams with an understanding that there is power invested in the Commissioner, and there is already a framework of (legal, financial, etc) laws with which the league is intertwined.

      What if 40% of Native Americans are terribly offended by the name, and 60% are supportive or have no strong negative feelings towards it; should we condone a team name that horribly offends 40% of a group of people?

      I think it’s probably a good idea to just move past team names that designate racial groups.

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  3. It’s an issue worthy of discussion…..but our politicians need to quit trying to get voters attention and get back to the real issues for their constituents. Way too much grandstanding.

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  4. The Washington Redskins formed in 1932 as the Boston Braves, changing their name to the Boston Redskins in 1933. Eighty-one years later this becomes an issue?

    I’m sure the name wasn’t intended in a derogotory way. Sports teams are often named in honor of fierceness (Lions, Tigers, Bears, Pirates, Vikings… ). It seems most likely to me that was the intent.

    The world is too damn politically correct these days. Give it a rest and worry about the things that matter.

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    • Changed their name in 1933 to the Redskins, Rosa Parks was arrested for sitting in the front of the bus in 1955. There are a lot of things that were considered okay in 1933 that aren’t now. Also, you assessment that it is just now not okay is not really accurate, the patent office tried to pull the Redskins trademark in 1999, but was overturned. It was considered offensive before that as well. Although, I can’t tell you exactly why this is gaining so much more traction now.

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      • Traction now because sometimes it takes a long time for national conversations to get up and running. There’s a big list of people that have persisted to put the Washington team name in the spotlight, and they deserve credit.

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      • It’s “gaining traction” now in an attempt to divert peoples’ attention away from the fact that the IRS is running around acting like the Geheime Staatspolizei.

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  5. “offensive nickname”
    Not sure I’d say a team name is a nickname. I don’t think that “Redskins” is meant to be derogatory, and I don’t think that it’s the worst name in sports, for that matter, but I don’t think that these defensive arguments matter.
    If it directly offends people–if literal tribes of people are saying that it hurts them and reminds them of a violent and awful part of their history–then it shouldn’t be used as a moniker for a sports team that represents a city, state, or region.
    Some have said “it’s been around for a long time”–I understand the love of tradition, but social changes happen. National figures like politicians, newscasters, etc, used to use the N word regularly, but we as a country changed and so too did our way of speaking about ourselves.
    Besides, if the “Redskins” shed their name, then we get to all talk about new team names.

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  6. This topic deeply saddens me. Not because of the name but the fact that it’s become such an issue. I’m ashamed so many people are offended by this and that we’ve gotten so weak and have nothing better to do. The democratic party is the one leading this war on the redskins and I find that ironic as well. This has gotten more attention than Benghazi or half the massive errors this “president” has made which is also sickening. The war on the redskins name is a prime example of why America isn’t the greatest nation in the world anymore(see I’ll offend both parties I’m not biased either way).

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  7. Call them the Washington Americans, put a picture of George Washington on the helmet, with a red, white and blue uniform..That would settle it. Honestly, I think ithe present name preservers the memory of native americans,, but if people are so offended, move on from the Indian theme,

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  8. BENGHAZI!!!!! Everything is cover up for that! lulz. And yes, it has gotten more coverage than the redskins,but guess what! So have our beloved Vikings – see Google Trends here – http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=%2Fm%2F0n4bfmd%2C%20%2Fm%2F084l5%2C%20%2Fm%2F051q5&cmpt=q

    The term Redskins is offensive. It was a slur in 1933 and it is a slur now and it will continue to be a slur in 2033. It is not PC to remove offensive slur from our society while still allowing free speech it is just common decency and smart business.

    If the Redskins became the Generals or the Constituion or just the Washington FC it woudl be great business. Old redskins merch would fly off the shelves as would the NEW merch. Seems good for image and the bottom line. If any fans would stop following the skins because of a name change they were never really fans before.

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    • Viking is not a racial slur.

      Viking isn’t even an historical ethnic designation.

      It was an activity, or semi-profession. Just like Pirates, Buccaneers, or Raiders.

      You can make an argument against use of the Idaho Vandals, but there are no people claiming Vandal ethnicity to be offended by that use or the general colloquialism.

      Tell me, when was the last time you called an Amerindian a r**skin? Maybe around the same time that you had the guts to call an African American a n****r, or an east Asian person a c***k, or aJewish person a k**e.

      If you’d have to think twice before saying to their face, then it is offensive. Why is that hard for some to get?

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      • Great point! I wonder how many of the folks defending the name “Redskins” would walk up to Joey Browner and say “Hey redskin!” I just read that Browner, who is part Native American, has been protesting the “Redskins” name for a long time.
        Anyone who says they would’t call him that should see the problem of naming a sports franchise the same thing. And anyone who WOULD call Joey that to his face… probably isn’t long for this world anyway. Good golly could that man hit! One of favorite Vikes ever. He needs to be in the Hall of Fame yesterday.

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    • Oh they felt offended long ago, but history is written by the victors. (Maybe that’s why “Viking” is seldom considered an ethnic slur… which makes your point moot, I think.)

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  9. The name ‘Oklahoma’ is a Choctaw word which means ‘Red People’. Is that disrespectful? Should they be required to change their name?

    “I am a red man. If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans, in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in his sight. It is not necessary for Eagles to be Crows. We are poor… but we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die…we die defending our rights.”
    – Sitting Bull

    I find it deeply offensive when I see someone stomping on, or burning, the US flag. I see it as symbolically burning the nation, and disrespecting those who have given their lives to create and preserve the nation. Yet, that’s protected free speech, so I refrain from taking action.

    It is a handful of people of this day and age who find the name to be offensive. I see no reason to accommodate them, any more than my offense at the burning of the flag should be accommodated.

    Perhaps if Snyder moved the team to Oklahoma, that would be an end of the whining.

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    • Whining?! That’s hardly the word for this protest.
      You just expressed how deeply offended you are when someone burns an American flag. How would you feel if someone said “stop whining, it’s just a damn piece of colored cloth!” No. It’s not whining because it’s not just a piece of colored cloth. It’s a recognized and powerful symbol.
      The reason you find it deeply offensive when someone burns a flag is because you respect the flag and all for which it stands. If every NFL game began with a ceremonial burning of the Stars and Stripes, I’m guessing that you would protest. Loudly. And you would do this even if a minority of Americans found it offensive. And it would not be “whining”.
      Many (not all, maybe not even most) Native Americans find the term “redskin” offensive. Why? Same reason so many people find the American flag inspiring: the history it symbolizes. Just because you have never been on the receiving end of the term “redskin” used as a slur does not mean that many others have not had this experience. They don’t like it. For good reason.
      Our nation’s sad history of injustice against Native Americans is a national disgrace rivaled only by our enslavement of African Americans. Its tragic legacy continues to this day. We will never fully atone for it. The least we can do is show some sensitivity to those who have been hurt by racism and prejudice… including the (to some) innocuous kind like employing the term “redskin” or “Redskins.”
      This is not a free speech issue. It’s a respect issue. You want people to respect your American heritage? Then be the kind of American that people will respect — the kind who respects the heritage of others.

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      • You don’t consider it to be whining. I do.
        I don’t whine about people burning the American flag because there’s no point to it. The SCOTUS has declared flag burning to be protected free speech so there’s an end of it. I may not like it, but I put on my adult pants and accept the lawful decision of the highest court in the land.
        You call it “just a piece of colored cloth”, to me, it’s a bit more meaningful. And that’s alright, we’re individuals, we have the right to our own perspectives on things. What we do not have the natural right to do, is impose those perspectives on others.
        A lot of people dislike many things, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to impose their preferences on the rest of the world. Respect either works both ways, or it’s something other than respect.
        I do not subscribe to “our enslavement” or “our history of injustice”. I didn’t do it, my father didn’t do it, my grandfather didn’t do it, and I don’t buy into inherited guilt, or generation social justice.
        It may well be that we’re reaching a point in time when a significant portion of the fans and supporters of the team will want that name change. If they do, they’ll make it known by voting with their pocket books and money does talk pretty loudly.
        But when I see a small, vocal minority trying to impose it’s will on society, trying to take away someone’s brand-property to suit their outrage or soothe their misplaced feelings of guilt, that doesn’t seem much like democracy, or freedom, to me.

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        • “trying to take away someone’s brand-property”

          Pesky Native Americans… always trying to take what isn’t theirs.

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  10. Obviously what the term Redskins in the NFL and especially to Washington fans is-is of something great, they are proud of, the fans, players and members of the organization hold close to their hearts. Obviously a team is not going to want to be known as what many wanting the name changed and push their interpretation of the word to be. What it means to them and most of the modern world is not the same meaning. Why some that over reach in attempting to harness political correctness do not understand that there are multiple meanings to words, and how the meaning of words evolve is beyond me. They way most people who want the Redskins named changed come across is that they ignore what the name means to the people who actually used it and want it only interpreted in the derogatory they want it to be. There are plenty of terms and words that were coined or initially used in a negative way, then through the years took on new meaning, or meanings. It is ironic that the hatred they are attempting to rid the world of is in this context not even there and they are the ones that are actually reintroducing a form of discrimination.

    The fact of the matter is that when one wants to go on a crusade of eliminating discrimination in lets say the form of altering how mascots from sports teams can be interpreted in a discriminating way; why would they single out one specific team or franchise? Just on the Native American perspective of where those kinds of people were looked up to be so majestic, awesome, great, etc., that whichever group of people in history were used as a name of a team like say the Seminoles, or the Braves, or the Black Hawks, or the Indians, or teh Chiefs, or the etc., etc. etc. But why stop there, because singling out just one type of people to so called protect, while ignoring others is very discriminating. What about all the proud Americans that maybe do not like football and think the New England patriots is highly offensive? Or people from Texas that took offense to team known as the Texans, or Scandinavians who take offense to the great fans who love Minnesota’s football team known as the Vikings? There are countless teams in middle schools, high schools, college and pro sports that decide on what they will be known as because of feeling of pride and greatness, not because they want to known as something terrible as many would ignorantly accuse them of.

    Though, if certain people are dead set on protecting people that they feel are being discriminated against or mocked or whatever negative thing they feel they are in-justly being subjugated to-then they should take on every single team, organization, franchise and group because them only taking on a single one, or even two or three is nothing but plain and simple discrimination. Apparently all the other sports teams with mascots of current and former tribes or groups of people that are not the Washington Redskins are just not good enough, or equal to these people that are looking to eliminate racism and discrimination for only a select people. Hmm…sounds racist to me.

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  11. I for one am appalled that a team would try to profit off the ancestors of mine who sailed the great Atlantic Ocean 500 years before Columbus… oh wait I have a thicker skin than that

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    • Educate yourself.

      Viking is not an ethnonym. If you had ancestors who were vikings, it wasn’t their tribal, clan, or national name.

      Nor was it ever used as a slur.

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    • False equivalence. (Vikings =/= Redskins.)
      Scandinavians generally don’t consider “Viking” an ethnic slur.
      If the team were named “The Minnesota Fjord-Monkeys” or “The Minnesota Sea-Jews” or “The Minnesota Rjeindeer Fj***ers”, your skin would be much thinner, don’t you think?
      Or maybe you’d be fine with that, because there’s not much history of your ancestors being scalped while being called those things. “Redskins” on the other hand…

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      • Most Indians generally don’t consider redskins offensive either, except a few butt hurt ones and more that just want the spotlight. Why are people so sensitive now, I could see people being this thin-skinned at the world cup but this is the NFL. Pretty soon there will be ties allowed and participation trophies so the browns can actually win something.

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        • I’m with you on the participation trophies. I was at my son’s track banquet last month — EVERYONE got some award. The thing lasted 4 hours! Insane. The Browns will need no such help of course. They’ve got Johnny Ice Cream, so they’ll win it all every year from now on. (PLEASE let us win one before they do!)

          On Redskins name though — hey, I get the emotional attachment to the name for fans of the team. I would hate it if the Vikings had to change their name. And I’m never one to beat the PC drum. It’s just that I don’t think you can call someone thin-skinned unless you have shared their experience. As a white man, I will never fully understand the American Indian experience. I’ve got to take their word for it. And there’s just too much sordid history to simply dismiss.

          But enough of this. September can’t get here soon enough!

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  12. So, good to get that all settled. . .Any Viking football news lately? I’ve been up on the Tundra for a while. . .

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  13. I grew up in Monticello, MN. Back in like the late 80’s or early 90’s the changed from “Monticello Red Men” to the “Monticello Magic.” I know it isn’t a professional venue, but the change made ZERO difference to our local education system, traditions, and it certainly didn’t impact our football talent (horrible either way).

    I just have yet to hear an argument for keeping the name that convinces me that anyone would be “hurt” by the change. There are no victims here, from what I can tell, even Mr. Snyder. And in my experience, people who keep offending people because they can, or because of the principle of the matter, are people I don’t want to hang out with or have a beer with. Might be simplistic way to look at life, but, yeah…

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    • A little too simplistic Adam. Also look 15 years ago nobody was offended by Redskin, the media has done this and a few tribes who wanted the spotlight. Being Irish I think the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is awesome I’m not offended(although I could easily be if I wanted to). Snyder would likely profit in the end by changing the name(increased jersey sales) but shouldn’t have to. If somebody is offended by the Redskins then go cheer for the cowboys.

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      • The post-Super Bowl protests in 1988 were more than 15 years ago, if my math is correct.

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  14. Also, the Skins have an obvious (to me, anyways) alternative that would allow them to shed the Redskins name while also preserving tradition. Why not the Washington Hogs?

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    • Unfortunately Adam, the nickname “Hogs” will offend 30 percent of the American people.
      Nope, won’t work, fat people will revolt. Probably shouldn’t have said ‘fat people’. hopefully it didn’t offend anyone.

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      • Ha ha. Very funny. This is good stuff. I like the Hogs.I think fat people SHOULD be teased and bullied so they’ll put the cheetos down. It’s like everyones mothers are running the country. If I got offended by every P.I. thing anyone has ever said at work, (refering to Kluwless now), it’s a joke. I’ve been bullied and slurred all day long, everyday in my profession and no one cares because we don’t have fame and money to go after. People need to appreciate the social gains we’ve made in this country and our core goodness that makes these changes and lighten the F up.. I only say this because of the title of the article.

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  15. In my above post, I said Indian theme. “indian” is offensive in it’s stupiidity. Calling a native american an Indian because they thought they thoght they were in India. I say we go after the Clevend Indians. I mean really. OMG now I’m one of them…

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