"Back in 1992, Washington reigned as Super Bowl champs with high hopes for two in a row under coach Joe Gibbs. That year, a Native American resident of the District, Suzan Harjo, became the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to change the team’s disparaging name: Redskins.
As the legal battle over the name enters its 20th year, let’s review some highlights of a struggle in which moral victories by the plaintiffs often coincided with demoralizing losses by the team on the field — including dashed hopes of winning another Super Bowl.
1992: The American Jewish Committee voices support for the lawsuit. The term “redskins” is not an honorific to Native Americans, as Washington claims; it’s an insult, says the AJC. Seven years later, when communications executive Daniel Synder buys the team, Native Americans assume that he’ll be more sympathetic than the previous owner because he is Jewish. They are sorely mistaken.
On the gridiron, Gibbs takes the team to the NFC divisional playoffs (January 1993) but loses to the San Francisco 49ers. After 12 seasons and three Super Bowl wins, Gibbs retires. It is the end of times for Washington football.
1993: Webster’s Third New International Dictionary Unabridged (3rd ed., Merriam-Webster, 1993) defines the team name as “taken to be offensive.” This contrasts with a Washington Post-ABC News poll the previous year in which 89 percent of respondents said they favor keeping the team’s name because “the name is not intended to be offensive.”
Defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon replaces Gibbs as head coach and is promptly fired after losing 12 of the season’s 16 games"
Get the Story:
Courtland Milloy: As Redskins’ struggles drag on, so does court challenge to name
(The Washington Post 1/1)
Dan Snyder: Unsportsman of the Year, 2011
(The Washington City Paper 12/30)
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