diversion about nomenclature in a different sport during BASEBALL season (sorry)


words have meaning, no?

Thoughtful piece that I missed last week by the thoughtful guy who has the impossible job of being ombudsman for ESPN, So what if ESPN refused to use the R-word? If you’re already familiar with The Issue of how to refer to the Washington franchise of the NFL, you’ll probably still learn something (if nothing else, about ESPN’s self-defined role in the world); if you’re not up to speed, this is a good place to start.

To me, it’s a no-brainer, though one with potentially big (negative) consequences for ESPN as well as with huge potential (positive) consequences for the world and (ultimately) for ESPN. To me, it’s as simple as it is put by ESPN’s Dan Graziano (see the Lipsyte piece for the quote and a link): the name should never have been used in the first place because it has always been used as a slur by members of a dominant culture against a minority.


You can talk about tradition and loyalty all you want (many have, and continue to), claiming a connection to The Team Name That They Don’t Mean As A Slur, but that kind of pretzel logic doesn’t do it for me.

This is almost too simple … suppose there was another dictionary definition beyond the one on Meriam Webster online for “k*ke”, one that offered a “(b)” usage

K * K E

(b) a member of the Portland, Oregon team in the National Football League

and imagine that this fictional Portland team featured a yarmulke on their helmets and their fans attended games with crudely stylized ritual symbols of Jewish religious practice and tradition (tallit, chai, and a menorah they would light every time the K*kes scored). (Don’t get me started on the food offerings at the fictional stadium.)

Of course the good people of Portland are not anti-semites, now or when the team was formed long ago. In fact, team lore is that the name is an homage to their scrappy equipment manager when the team was formed, Harry “The K*ke” Myerson, but that account is thought by some to be mere legend.

You can do this for almost any group, so knock yourself (and your imagination) out. Simple question: should such a name survive in a civilized society? Tougher question: what does the fact that this is controversial for the Washington NFL franchise tell us about our level of civilization?

To all my Chosen family and friends: I hope your fast is easy today and that you are sealed in the good book for another year. Not to mention, shabbot shalom.

© Sandy Mattingly 2013

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