President Obama must be feeling a great sense of accomplishment. The rollout of the healthcare.gov website must be all fixed. Millions of Americans are probably getting new letters from their former health insurers telling them they are welcome to come back — at the same price as their old premiums. The Israelis and our other allies must all be breathing a sigh of relief that the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons has been averted.
All of that must be the case if our Nobel laureate has time to expound on the name of the Washington Redskins football team, right? What’s that you say? None of these intractable world problems and leading domestic issues have been resolved? And yet, our president has waded into the Redskins’ name controversy?
We won’t join longtime Washington Democratic strategist Lanny Davis’ call for President Obama to give up. Lanny Davis raised some eyebrows, to be sure, when he publicly opposed his president on the Redskins’ name controversy. However, in the way of Washington, it soon became clear that Davis is the attorney for the Redskins' owner, and an effective advocate against the name change. As the old adage has it: Where you stand depends on where you sit. And we’ll guess that Lanny Davis’ season ticket seats are pretty nice places to sit.
We have, perhaps, a better idea: Let the team keep the Redskins’ name and change the logo. It turns out that the name may have been an English variant of that used for the Plains Indians by the French yoyageurs. "Peaux-rouges" may well be translated as "redskins" but the original meaning may not have referred to the skin color of the Indians. Instead, it may have referred to the fact that they painted their skins with red war paint.
Now, this would not be the first time the French came to Washington’s rescue. Let’s not forget the timely arrival of the French army under the command of the Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, during the American Revolution. Or the critical victory of the French fleet at the Battle of the Capes in Chesapeake Bay in 1781. Together, French military and naval assistance enabled General George Washington to win his decisive victory at Yorktown and establish our independence.
So, let the team owners keep the Redskins name, but change the logo to reflect that French idea. Let’s paint three red stripes on the Indian chieftain’s face to make it clear the red skin we are referring to is the war paint on his face.
We already have a good precedent for this in Florida State University’s mascot, Chief Osceola. The war paint on the chief’s stern features also reminds Floridians that the Seminoles never signed a treaty with the U.S. The FSU mascot is seen as a sign of respect, and its use is officially sanctioned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
The same can be said of the statue of Tecumseh at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The midshipmen named him and made him “the God of 2.0,” the minimum grade point average required to graduate. Mids in academic difficulty have traditionally pitched pennies into Chief Tecumseh’s quiver as a tribute to our ancient opponent's prowess. Clearly, the midshipmen’s intent is to show respect.
Finally, by adding three red stripes to the Washington football team’s logo, we can replicate the three red stripes of George Washington’s family crest, the basis for the District of Columbia’s striking flag.
Not every Washington controversy has to result in a win/lose ending. Sometimes, we can compromise on a mutually agreeable solution.Ken Blackwell was Ohio secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Bob Morrison taught on the Klallam Indian Reservation in Washington state.