The other day the Trademark and Appeal Board ruled against the name: Redskins “may disparage persons…or brings them into contempt, or disrepute.” All this is according to the Lanham Act.
Three Indian bloods course through me: Choctaw, Cherokee and Chickasaw. My mother held fast to the brown eyes, which was her right. Her brother, I don’t remember; I haven’t seen his face since World War II. (Of course, I have blue eyes.)
The Trademark and Appeal Board’s ruling came in response to five Indians, which was enough that provoked the response. I haven’t read much of the Navahos, Arapahos, Cheyenne, Iroquois and Sioux nations – the bigger tribes, I mean – making much of a fuss. I guess they’re happy with the gambling industry and casinos that white man’s civilization presented them.
My mother’s daddy explained when I returned from overseas: “Son, you’ve got good stock. Of course, you had a cousin who stole horses, but they didn’t hang him. A good boy!”
The same grandfather stood out at the moment he retired, years later, for the pants that had inevitably sharp creases – and his face with planes and angles. His Indian characteristics proclaimed him and his nature. He had a French father and was born in the Natchez Trace.
More to the point: I knew George Preston Marshall, who moved the National Football League team from Boston where it was first called the Red Sox, to honor the stadium they played in. Pretty soon, they moved to the same park as Boston Braves. In 1937, Mr. Marshall brought the team to Washington, his “home town,” where he and his father ran a laundry. In mind’s eye, I can still see a tall chimney with Redskins emblazoned up to the sky.
A previous column narrated how Paul “Bear” Bryant wanted a NFL coaching position before settling with the University of Alabama where he became a genuine legend. In that case, Mr. Marshall used me because he wanted to avoid Mr. Bryant’s approaches and questions.
Mr. Marshall received the franchise in 1932. As the southern-most in the National Football League, the team had to manage their p’s and q’s. Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich was constantly mad at him. Mr. Marshall organized a radio program through the south and arranged broadcast of live games; he told me that it was a matter of business, not integration. I believed him. But we both had come through the Great Depression; Shirley was employed by the Post during those years.
We have current team owner Dan Snyder not willing to change the name. Atlanta still has the baseball name that they moved to Georgia with. Of course, “Braves” doesn’t reek to high heaven as the “Redskins” does.
On the other hand, Mr. Snyder doesn’t remember Leon Bakst. George Preston Marshall recalled the Russian-born painter and costume and scenery artist. Pity!