It’s not just a name. After years of protest, Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, relented and agreed to drop the racist and controversial mascot name used by the NFL team since it was established 87 years ago.
This was a major departure for a stubborn man who just seven years ago said he would “NEVER” change the name, and told the reporter covering the story to use all caps. Snyder is a cranky and litigious corporate executive.
But this is 2020, and since a Minneapolis police officer put a knee into the back of George Floyd’s neck, killing him, the call to end racism in our country has amped up. And we hope it doesn’t stop.
For Synder and the Redskins, NEVER became TODAY. Snyder didn’t have a moral epiphany, but a business one: Two weeks ago, 87 major investors holding more than $620 billion in assets demanded that FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo terminate their business relationship with the Washington football team unless they agreed to change the controversial name. FedEx paid $205 million for the naming rights to the stadium back in 1999, and let Snyder know that if he didn’t change the name, the company would remove its signage.
On July 13, the team announced the retirement of the mascot.
Rooting out systemic racism will require efforts from activists, corporations and government. It won’t be simple, and symbolic as well as more substantive acts are needed.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson was ordered by the network to speak on his show July 13 about the charges against his senior writer, Blake Neff, who resigned two days prior over racist and sexist rants he posted online using a pseudonym. On June 5, Neff wrote, “Black doods staying inside playing Call of Duty is probably one of the biggest factors keeping crime down.” On June 26, he posted, “the only people who care about changing the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins are ‘white libs and their university-‘educated’ pets.’”
That was too much for even conservative Fox News Media, which put out a statement that it “condemns racist, sexist and homophobic” behavior, and required Carlson address the Neff resignation on his program. Advertisers had already begun canceling their campaigns.
There’s no place for racism. There’s no place for a football team called the Whiteskins or the Blackskins, or the Redskins.
There is an effort afoot at Carmel High School to rename the mascot to something besides the Padres. This is part of a growing campaign throughout California to remove Father Junipero Serra statues and tributes, due to Serra’s harsh treatment of Indigenous people.
For 2004 grad Noelle Mosolf Smith, who started a petition to advocate for a mascot change, her discomfort with the Padre symbol started when she was a student. She wasn’t raised Catholic, and even as a teenager, the idea that a public school would have a religious figure as its mascot bothered her; it bothers her even more now that she’s a public school teacher herself, at Central Coast High School.
It’s Smith’s first foray into advocacy. She was moved by the movement to rename symbols and places to better represent our values. “I preach to my students all the time about how they have to advocate for themselves and speak up about issues they care about,” she says.
When the CUSD board next meets on July 22, they’ll discuss creating a committee to explore a name change. For Smith, it doesn’t mean giving up history – it just means moving forward to a more inclusive future. Carmel High’s baseball field is named after her grandfather, coach George Mosolf. Her father and aunt played sports as Padres; as a swimmer, Smith was a “Lady Padre.” (She hopes a new mascot is gender-neutral.)
A statue of Serra by artist Jo Mora was recently removed from public display in Carmel for safekeeping, and as Mora expert Peter Hiller wrote last week in the Weekly, how – and if – it gets reinstalled deserves a conversation. Perhaps Junipero Serra Peak will be next, renamed to its original Salinan name: Sta’yokale Peak.
Some think we should leave history as is. It’s time to recognize and correct systemic racism, in its blatant and subtle forms. Change will not necessarily feel comfortable. But the choice to do nothing is much, much worse.