By Ken Reed

Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, has been called a spoiled brat, an egomaniac, and a good old fashioned jerk. Peter Keating, writing for ESPN, makes a strong case that by proclaiming that he’ll never change the Washington NFL franchise’s nickname, Snyder can also be called a bad businessman.

Look, there’s a strong faction (including myself) that believes the Redskins nickname is racist and degrading and should be changed immediately, There’s another strong faction — and based on opinion polls, a bigger one — that believes there’s a lot of history, tradition, and brand equity in the Redskins name and that it should be left alone.

There’s also a group that lingers in the middle of these two positions and it’s my contention that the way Snyder has thrown a tantrum on this issue, stomped his feet and screamed “Never!” over and over again has pushed more people toward the “Let’s dump the Redskins name” faction. Most people believe the Redskins name is a reasonable issue to consider, but Snyder’s childish and adamant opposition rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

Let’s face it, Snyder’s not a very popular owner to start with. As Keating writes, “If anything, Snyder has done more to wreck the Redskins brand than a name change ever could. For 14 years, his misadventures have ranged from signing Albert Haynesworth to hiring Jim Zorn, from charging fans to watch practices to suing a local reporter.” Acting like a jerk on this Redskins name issue isn’t going to help his image in the minds of a lot of reasonable observers.

This issue, if we’re honest about it, is really about racism vs. tradition, and currently a lot of people are coming down on the side of tradition.

“Of course “Redskin” is racist,” writes Keating. “The term’s origin is disputed, but some say it derives from the bloody scalps of natives, for which the Massachusetts Bay Province began offering rewards in 1755 — 50 pounds for each murdered adult male, 25 pounds apiece for women, 20 pounds per child. There’s no way to pretty that up, so be honest: Your real argument is that your enjoyment of the team’s name, and your connection to its folklore, is more important than its genocidal history.”

Snyder is obviously driven primarily by money. But, as Keating points out, what if he could be persuaded that changing the Redskins name is actually better for his pocketbook than keeping the name? In other words, how about hitting him with an economic argument he can relate to rather than a moral one he’s clearly oblivious too? Keating points out that research convincingly shows that teams that have changed their racist names have actually benefited financially in the long run.

“It’s easy to see why,” writes Keating. “Teams modernize their logos and apparel every few years whether they keep their mascots or not, and fans keep buying new stuff, however vociferously a few complain about the changes.

“And I think the same would happen if Washington flips. It might seem that the Redskins, who have represented our nation’s capital for nearly 80 years, have a uniquely powerful brand. But pro football teams get most of their value from the sport they play (62 percent, Forbes says) and the market they’re in (17.4 percent). Just 6.5 percent, on average, comes from their brand equity — the value teams get from fans being able to identify with individual franchises. Put an NFL team in DC and it would be worth more than $1 billion even if you called it the Washington Smallpox.”

Now, I could live with “Smallpox.” In 2013, it’s hard to accept the ongoing use of “Redskins.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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