Dan Snyder Vows to Protect “Redskins” Nickname to His Death

What the NFL team owner could learn from the Chink's Steaks name change.

Well, at least Daniel Snyder never owned Chink’s Steaks.

Chink’s, you’ll remember, is the northeast Philly steak shop that changed its name to Joe’s Steaks + Soda Shop a couple of months ago, after years of protests that the name was insensitive to Asian-Americans. Shop owner Joe Groh wanted to expand his business, and he did—and he made the right decision, it appears: The shop just made Zagat’s list of Top 10 Philly “guilty pleasures” in part because the name change meant customers didn’t have to feel too guilty. Changing the name to reflect 21st-century sensibilities, it seems, was a smart move by Groh.

Nobody’s ever accused Snyder—owner of the Washington Redskins football team—of being similarly savvy. He has a long history of overpaying his rosters for underachieving results. (The Eagles, who play in the same division, at least have been beneficiaries of this.) He’s probably one of the most-loathed owners in professional sports today. So, of course, he’s pledged to protect his team’s racist nickname to the very death.

“We will never change the name of the team,” he told USA Today last week. “As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it’s all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season.”

“NEVER,” he added, just in case anybody missed the point.

Let me offer a counterpoint: Your tradition, sucks, Dan Snyder.

Anybody who isn’t in football treats the word “redskin” like a racial slur. Because it is. And your defense of that slur as a “tradition” also sucks, Dan Snyder, because traditions so ofen do.

“Tradition” is the last refuge of racism. It’s a way to justify keeping alive ideas and words that deserve to die. It dresses up ignorance and hatred in a Clark Gable outfit and dares the rest of us (sniff) to impugn the heritage and honor of all the people who love that tradition, no matter how ignorant or rotten-hearted they might be.

What it basically means is: “We’ve been racist for a really long time. Why do you want to take that away from us?”

“Tradition” is why so many people in the South can today justify flying a Confederate flag made specifically for an army and a country created to defend the very institution of slavery.

“Tradition” is why Texas Gov. Rick Perry could go hunting well into his adult years at a location called “Niggerhead Ranch.”

And “tradition,” even now, is why people still regularly post to Facebook about their undying loyalty to Chink’s Steaks as a name, even though everything else about Joe’s Steaks + Soda is unchanged. It’s important to people that old, stupid, offensive ways and names be protected.

Let’s be clear: The clinging to tradition, for most people, is clinging to a time when they had the power to run roughshod over other people’s sensibilities if they weren’t the right color or gender or were just a little different.

Well, screw that.

It is, of course, your right, Dan Snyder, to keep using that racial slur as your team’s nickname. Just understand: With every passing year, it will make you look more anachronistic and out of touch, will slowly bind you ever more tightly in the public mind to racism itself. And you’ll deserve it. “Tradition” is a coward’s defense of the indefensible.