Commentary: List of ‘R-Word’ Critics Grows Louder and Louder

Washington NFL Team

Commentary: List of ‘R-Word’ Critics Grows Louder and Louder

John Wooten joins opponents of the racist nickname of NFL franchise.

Published January 21, 2015

John Wooten, an NFL guard back in the 1950s and ’60s, has decided he can’t keep silent anymore, even as thousands of others have.

Perhaps they hope the controversy might evaporate into the ozone if they ignore it long enough, but this controversy isn’t going anywhere.

It can’t, not with all right-thinking Americans like Wooten standing as brethren behind a campaign to do what the owner of the NFL franchise in Washington, D.C., has proven unwilling to do: get rid of the nickname “Redskins.”

Wooten joined the Change the Mascot Campaign and, from his role as chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, weighed in with others who are demanding the NFL team change its nickname.

“We have to take a stand,” Wooten said in an article Monday in The Washington Post. “That name has to be changed. We can’t just leave it up to [the team]. We think it’s disrespectful. We think it’s, by definition, demeaning.”

To see the “R-word” as demeaning is to call John Legend a great singer, Bill Gates rich or Al Sharpton outspoken.

Res ipsa loquitur: the thing speaks for itself.

Adding Wooten to the list of men and women who detest the nickname seems right, because few athletes have committed their lives to working for social justice like Wooten, whose activism dates to the 1960s.

Nor could he and the Pollard alliance, a prominent civil rights group, have picked a better day, the national celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., to announce their support of the get-rid-of-the-team’s-nickname campaign. 

In the spirit of the late reverend, Wooten is keeping an injustice in the public spotlight. He’s shown, as have others earlier, he can’t ignore racism; he isn’t going to allow racism to thrive.

He’s ramping up the withering criticism of commissioner Roger Goodell and team owner Dan Snyder for allowing this issue to continue. The two men can remain tone deaf for only so long. At some point, they’ll have to agree fewer and fewer people see the “R-word” as anything other than racist.

Facing claims he ignored the NFL’s policy on hiring when he didn’t make a legitimate effort to interview a Black applicant for his team’s job as general manager, Snyder seems not to have heard a thing that differs from how he hears the world around him. His mulish belief that his team’s nickname doesn’t offend people is hubris run amok.

Hubris can’t hold strong forever, no matter how many millions a man has. As the opposition to his thinking grows from a handful of headstrong men to an army of ’em, Snyder is running out of ways to ignore the public’s outcry.

The Pollard alliance will ensure that outcry is finally heard. For Wooten isn’t about to let his organization walk away from an issue that speaks to the evolving beliefs and social mores of Americans. He won’t turn his back on racism or allow racists to hide behind their money.

Nor should the rest of us.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: TJ Root/Getty Images)

Written by Justice B. Hill


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