It seems appropriate that the heart of the Oneida Indian Nation would raise a fuss about "The Redskins" coming to town. Denver is the confluence of many of the tribes of the Great Plains. The aim of the protest is to get the Washington NFL franchise's owner, Daniel Snyder, to consider picking a new mascot. It's not as if there were no precedent for such a thing.
It was in 1995 that the Washington Bullets, our capitol's National Basketball Association franchise, decided to change their name to the Washington Wizards. Aside from the gift of alliteration, this switch allowed the team's ownership to distance themselves from the violent and somewhat unfortunate irony of being named after ammunition that was killing the city's residents in record numbers. There was a lot of discussion, and fans made plenty suggestions, including Dragons, Express, Stallions, and Sea Dogs. By selecting the Wizards, the fans of the DC area proved to be somewhat prescient, anticipating the Harry Potter zeitgeist by two years.
Whatever the case, Hogwarts or social consciousness, the ownership responded to the community at large. I'm reasonably certain that the outcry connected to gun violence is probably heard more readily than that of Native Americans. It should be noted, however, that some of the initial and most profound victims of gun violence on these shores just happened to be Native Americans, and that probably has something to do with the size of the protest in the first place. The defense Mister Snyder likes to fall back on is the long and proud tradition of his football team. As if the relative success or failure of this group of athletes was integrally connected to the totem to which they connect themselves, at least for commercial purposes.
Here's something to consider: The Baltimore Ravens used to be the Cleveland Browns. They have a long and proud seventeen year tradition of being named after the poetry of Maryland's favorite opium addict. They have won precisely one less Super Bowl than the team down the road, the Washington Redskins. Maybe it has nothing to do with the name at all. The Ravens used to be the Browns. Cardinals that used to be in St. Louis are now found in Phoenix, and Rams that once inhabited Los Angeles have filled the void in Missouri. Baltimore got their Ravens, in part, because somebody wanted to sneak their team out of town and set them up in Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, back in the NBA, I found myself confounded by a box score for the Pelicans. There is a professional basketball team called The Pelicans? They were Hornets, just a little while ago. Now the Hornets are going back to Charlotte, where they apparently belong much more than Bobcats. Confused? No wonder Daniel Snyder wants to stick with tradition. Even offensive tradition.