Joe Elinoff: Wrong on Redskins

July 6, 2014 

While the June 30 column by George Will, “ What’s in a name? Lessons in tolerance” has Will’s usual internal logic and a quote from constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley going for it, Will is completely wrong.

The Merriam Webster dictionary refers to the name “redskin” as being “usually offensive, disparaging, and insulting.” That’s how we all understand it. The same is not as true of most other names that refer to Native Americans, such as Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves or Florida State Seminoles.

We wouldn’t even be having the discussion if the Washington Redskins were named Blackskins or Yellowskins. Nor would it have been permissible for Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, to have changed the name to refer to his ethno-religious group, the Jews, as the Washington Yids.

It is irrelevant that polls do not reveal wide opposition to the use of the Redskin name. Will sees a similarity between “team names” and the refusal of two Oregon bakers to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. When one opens a business to the public, the right to select who you will serve is given up. Businesses are not permitted to deny service to Jews or African-Americans. This has been amply adjudicated and is quite simply morally wrong.

Joe Elinoff, Durham

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