Sports fans in the Washington DC area love their professional football team.  Partly that’s because their baseball teams have been so bad and so poorly supported that they’ve had to flee west to find enthusiastic fans and postseason success.  Partly it’s because the Baltimore Bullets-Washington Bullets-Washington Wizards have had more success establishing an identity than they have winning basketball games.

Whatever the reasons (and they are legion), Washington sports fans care so desperately about their football team that they’ve been willing to overlook a multitude of sins by the club and its owners—including George P. Marshall whose segregationist practices accomplished the utterly implausible by making Boston Red Sox owner Thomas Yawkey look (comparatively speaking) like a racial progressive.

And then there’s the team name.  It’s a name the club cares so deeply about that it’s recently gone to court to protect its right to use the nickname.

So kudos to the Washington City Paper for its cheerful mockery of the Washington professional football club and its nickname—and for its principled stand against casual usage of a racial slur that fits all too comfortably in the same category as Kikes, Niggers, Spics, Micks, and scores of other slurs aimed at denigrating whole classes of human beings.

As the Kansas City Star’s public editor wrote recently in defense of his own paper’s longstanding editorial policy against using the Washington team’s nickname, “I find it inconceivable that the NFL still allows such a patently offensive name and mascot to represent the league in 2012….(and) I see no compelling reason for any publisher to reprint an egregiously offensive term as a casual matter of course.”

*This blog has a good friend who grew up in the District and is a lifelong football fan.  “Potomac River Basin Indigenous Persons” is this friend’s (characteristically) wry and gently self-mocking coinage used when talking about the team.

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