Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
For those who find the name offensive, an alternative.
Not a year goes by that activists don't call for the Washington Redskins to drop the team's controversial name and mascot. Polls are taken, lawsuits filed, but the name endures. Many consider it straight-forward racism, while others, including Dan Snyder, one of the NFL's least-loved owners, do not.
The Washington City Paper, which falls in the former category, has taken matters into its own hands. Two weeks ago editor Mike Madden announced the paper would be renaming the team by reader vote. The team formerly known as the Redskins will henceforth be referred to in City Paper as ... The Washington Pigskins, A.K.A. The Hogs, a tribute to the team's onetime dominant offensive line. Helpfully, the new name allows for the continuation of the popular ’Skins abbreviation.
The City Paper was inspired by the Kansas City Star, which has a longstanding policy refusing to print the name of the NFL team from Washington. The policy is somewhat ironic since that paper's city has an NFL team called the Chiefs, but OK — the Star is joined in this respect by the Lincoln Journal Star (NE), the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the Portland Press Herald (ME). The dispute over Native American team names is so old and complicated that it has its own rather long Wikipedia page. But this is the first we've heard of a newspaper renaming such a team itself.
Last week, over a thousand readers voted to choose one of five finalists. More than half the votes cast were in favor of the Pigskins. Runners-up included the Washington Monuments, the Washington Bammas, the Washington Half-Smokes and the wordy, repetitive Washington Washingtons*.
On visuals alone, the Half-Smokes (a reference to D.C.'s most famous homegrown junk food) were a clear winner:
All images courtesy of Washington City Paper.
*Correction: The fifth option was in fact the Washingtons, not the Washingtonians.