Today the Minnesota Vikings played the Washington Redskins here in Minnesota. Before the game, several thousand protesters turned out at the University of Minnesota to demand that Redskins owner Dan Snyder change the team’s name. Among them was old-timer Clyde Bellecourt:
“We are standing up against this monster team that is here today and to this Jewish person who should know a little bit about genocide,” Bellecourt said in a reference to the Holocaust during WWII that left 6 million Jews dead under Nazi Germany.
The Holocaust vs. having a team named the “Redskins.” Hmm, that’s a close one all right. And the Redskins are a “monster team”? There might be a few Giants fans who have felt that way over the years, but come on.
The Mayor of Minneapolis got into the act:
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges led the throng in a chant of “Change the Name.”
Hodges then said to the gathering, “I have a message to the Washington team: The clock is ticking on your name … it is more than an insult. It’s hate.”
But it obviously isn’t. No one names a sports team after someone or something that he hates. Sports teams generally are given names that connote strength, courage and similar virtues–Lions, Tigers, Giants, Vikings, Cowboys, Eagles, Fighting Irish. The Indian names are in that category and have always been intended to be complimentary.
There is a certain irony in today’s demonstration taking place in the home of the Vikings, a name that was chosen because of the state’s large Scandinavian population. If “Redskins” implies a hatred of Indians, why doesn’t “Vikings” imply a hatred of Swedes?
Or, rather, Norwegians. Swedes were much too cowardly to be Vikings. Where I grew up, Swedes vs. Norwegians was the principal ethnic conflict, and every schoolboy could recite the timeless couplet, “A thousand Swedes ran through the weeds, chased by one Norwegian.” I have always taken a secret pride in the fact that my ancestors were the worst badasses in human history. I assume they were, anyway. They lived on an island off the Norwegian coast, so if they weren’t Vikings they were a pretty sad lot, catching mackerel to cook over an open fire. So I have always preferred to picture them as marauding raiders. The point being, if I am not insulted by Minnesota’s team being called the Vikings, I am not sure why Clyde Bellecourt should be insulted by Washington’s team being called the Redskins.
As always, some of today’s demonstrators carried signs. This one has caused considerable puzzlement:
“Viking” is a job? I have always thought of raiding the coast of Ireland for slaves more as a hobby or a pastime than a job. Did Vikings go to the nearest employment office to fill out an application? Did they get a minimum wage, or benefits? No health insurance, I’m pretty sure. Did they put down their battle axes when the whistle blew? This guy probably needs to study up a bit on his Nordic history, but I do think his sign illustrates some of the confusion that surrounds the anti-Indian nickname movement.
Actually, I could go either way on “Redskins.” I can see how some who don’t mind Chiefs or Indians or Braves could see it as offensive. Mostly, though, I hate the bullying that now largely dominates our public discourse, the ceaseless demands that the rest of accede to the ever-shifting requirements of political correctness. So I hope Snyder sticks to his guns.