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Sep 7, 2020

Columbia College Chicago cultural studies professor Rich King (Redskins: Insult and Brand) joins the podcast this week to discuss the roots and long-simmering backstory of the Washington NFL football franchise's problematic - and now former - nickname.

Investigative reporter Tisha Thompson framed the situation in her recent piece for ESPN:

“Daniel Snyder endured decades of protests, lawsuits and emotional appeals over the nickname of his Washington NFL team. ‘We'll never change the name,’ he told USA Today in 2013. ‘It's that simple. NEVER -- you can use caps.’

“Then, in a blinding rush this summer, the name long criticized by Native Americans and others was gone.

“But the change didn't feel sudden to the coalition of Native American groups that started working long ago to force Snyder's hand by investing in the corporations that pay hundreds of millions of dollars for sponsorship deals.”

Amplified by a renewed national furor over racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd - and opportunely reflexive corporate commitments to diversity and inclusion (particularly team sponsors like Nike, PepsiCo and stadium name rights holder FedEx) - the movement to retire the Washington NFL franchise's derogatory Native American name of over 80 years has been seemingly swift and sudden.

Instead, King helps us understand why the team's (and NFL's) dramatic decision is not only not a knee-jerk capitulation to trendy "political correctness" - but actually an overdue reckoning for a nickname steeped in systemic racism and cultural insensitivity.

What remains to be seen is how both pro football and the Washington franchise rectify the situation - and, importantly, how each appropriately squares it with the ignominious history that preceded it.