The sudden escalation of the Redskins team name controversy is not the result of an organic shift in public opinion where the term has gradually grown to offend more people. This isn’t a case of evolving standards of decency. It is a controversy manufactured by select people, exercising raw political and cultural power.
It’s undeniable that the Washington football franchise has a mixed legacy with race, going from racist owners and a segregated locker room to being a team that advanced black quarterbacks and united a city across racial lines. Yes, the Redskins song once exhorted fans to “Fight for old Dixie!” But the blunt fact is that sports team names are not designed to be insulting or derogatory.
A team is named to depict its members and fan base in a positive light, emphasizing character traits that are beneficial in sports. No one would name a team the Washington Idiots (although such a name seemed justified during the worst moments of the Jim Zorn era) or the Baltimore Buffoons. There is a reason there is a team called the New England Patriots and not one named the New England Traitors. A team name almost by definition is intended as a compliment rather than a slur.