The Instigator
brian_eggleston
Pro (for)
Losing
2 Points
The Contender
drafterman
Con (against)
Winning
13 Points

The NFL should kick racist teams out of American football

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
drafterman
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/4/2011 Category: Sports
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,326 times Debate No: 18617
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (18)
Votes (4)

 

brian_eggleston

Pro

Please examine the following list of team names and see if you can spot the odd one out:

New York Kikes;
Cleveland N!ggers;
Green Bay Pakis;
Denver Dagos;
Indianapolis Wops;
Washington Redskins;
Pittsburgh Greasers;
San Francisco 4x2s*;
New Orleans Spics;
Dallas Coolies;
Tampa Bay Towelheads.

Can guess which one it is? No? Okay, I'll tell you: it's the Washington Redskins because that is the genuine name of an actual NFL football team whereas I just made the others up.

It's outrageous that the NFL allows a club with such are racially offensive name (1) to participate in the sport they govern and I propose that they offer Washington Redskins the following ultimatum: change your name or we'll kick you out of the NFL.

There is no good reason why Washington Redskins cannot change their name, and here are some inoffensive alternatives they might consider:

Washington United;
Washington 69ers;
Washington Rovers;
Washington Foreskins;
Washington Athletic;
Washington Fudge-Packers;
AFC Washington;
Washington Rentboys;
Washington Wanderers;
Washington Butt-Buccaneers;
Sporting Washington;
Washington Arse-Raiders;
Sparta Washington;
Washington Sh!t-Stealers;
Washington Rangers.

There is no place for racism in American football and that's why I affirm that the NFL should kick racist teams out of the league.

Thank you.

(1) http://oxforddictionaries.com...

*4x2s (pronounced "four by twos") is Cockney rhyming slang for Jews
drafterman

Con

Thank you, Pro, for creating this Debate.

Linguistics is a funny thing. For a variety of reasons, the phonetics and semantics of words change over time. The collective opinions and judgements of society, too, change. Given that the offensiveness of a word is subjective, not objective, the combined transient nature of linguistics and popular opinion almost guarantees that the "racially offensive" nature of word is guaranteed to change over time.

In Pro's link, there is reference to the linguistic concept of "pejoration" [1], wherein a "neutral term acquires an unfavorable connotation or denotation." As is to be expected, there is a reverse to this process called "amelioration." [2] Some words that have undergone amelioration include:

Yankee [3]
Sooner [4]
Queer
Geek

Queer and Geek are interesting. It is undoubted that the Queer and Geek groups have reclaimed the terms ("Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", "Geek Squad", etc.) which were previously derogatory. Furthermore, in the case of Queer, its use as a synonym for strange predates its use as a derogatory term. It has gone from neutral, to derogatory, back to neutral, if not positive. It seems clear that the offensive nature of a word can change and is and subject to the collective whims of society.

Why should we deny this process to Redskins? If Pro is to be consistent in his assertion, then he should add the New York Yankees to the list, and petition University of Oklahoma to reject "Sooners" as a nickname for their team.

Do I suggest, then, that all of his suggestions are equally allowable? Certainly not. Most of them still retain their derogatory status as the primary and popular meaning of the word. However, some, such as San Francisco 4x2s or Coolies, I couldn't tell you what they are derogatory terms for. If you asked a random person what Redskins were, they would most likely refer to the football team, illustrating the fact that Redskins as a neutral tame for a sports team has supplanted its use as a derogatory term for a Native American which, itself, supplanted its use as a neutral term for a specific tribe of Native Americans.

The fact of the matter is, insisting that words can only ever be used in accordance with a previous meaning, etymologically, would have you completely severed from society, as no one would understand you. For example, Pro has just suggested that the NFL offer the Washington Redskins buttocks [5].

A more serious accusation is that of racism. It think it is important to distinguish between the use of a term which, at some point in its centuries old existence was used in a derogatory manner, and the actual application of discrimination based upon race. Racism, in short is: "prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race, based on the belief that one's own race is superior" [6]. In making such an accusation, Pro assumes a heavy burden of proof which has yet to be shown.

In short, yes, the term has been used pejoratively. It has also been used neutrally, even before it assumed pejorative status. Given these conflicting states, how should we treat the term? The answer is we should treat the term as we do with any word: in accordance with its current, popular usage. As it is now, the use of the term to refer to a football team is, by far, the most popular use of the term. Association of Redskin with native Americans is, at best, archaic. Even the referenced use by Pro notes the term is "dated."

(1) http://oxforddictionaries.com...
(2) http://pejorative.askdefine.com...
(3) http://www.etymonline.com...
(4) http://www.etymonline.com...
(5) http://www.etymonline.com...
(6) http://oxforddictionaries.com...
Debate Round No. 1
brian_eggleston

Pro

I would like to thank drafterman for his considered rebuttals and his assertion that some terms that were once pejorative have now been ameliorated and have become acceptable.

My opponent provided a short list of such words so, to begin, let's look at the first example of amelioration: Yankee.

Yankee is a corruption of Jan Kees (John Cheese) which was a derogatory term early English colonists of America used to describe their Dutch counterparts. Later, during the American Revolution, the ditty ‘Yankee Doodle' was considered extremely offensive by Americans when as it was sung by British soldiers to mock them: "doodle" then having a similar meaning to the word "retard" today, and "macaroni" being a reference to a foppish hat worn by dandies (effeminate men) at the time. (1)

Since then, the old meanings have been largely forgotten and the term "Yankee" is used between most Americans without shame – and, thus far, it would seem my opponent and I agree.

But here's where our opinions diverge: while one white American may refer to another as a "Yankee", just as African Americans often call other African Americans "niggers", it is not permissible for people outside those groups to use those terms, whether it may have become a pejorative (in the case of the former) or has been ameliorated (in the case of the latter).

Consider this scenario, for example. As a visiting Englishman, I am sitting in a restaurant in America and I summon a passing server and address them as follows:

"Now look here, Yankee, I want the finest wine available to humanity: I want it here and I want it now. What do you mean 'this is McDonald's'? God damn your insolence, I'll have a bottle of Mouton Rothschild soixante-dix-neuf or I'll have your guts for garters….bloody Yankee sommeliers, they haven't got the first idea…"

That, I think you would agree, would offend most Americans and I'd even venture to suggest that such a discourse in an American restaurant might elicit some negative comments the other diners.

The other examples my opponent listed follow a similar principle: it may be that gay men can refer to each other as ‘queers' without fear of causing offence but when I tried to start a debate on this site entitled "Queers Cannot be Counted upon to be Competent Combatants in a Crisis" I was widely accused of insulting gentlemen of a homosexual persuasion.

Moving on, my opponent stated: "A more serious accusation is that of racism…is important to distinguish between the use of a term which, at some point in its centuries old existence was used in a derogatory manner, and the actual application of discrimination based upon race."

To answer this I consulted the American Indian Movement and this is what they have to say on the matter of racism in sport:

"The American Indian community for 50 years has worked to banish images and names like Cleveland's chief wahoo, Washington redskins, Kansas City chiefs, Atlanta braves. We work to remind people of consciousness of the use of the symbols resemblance to other historic, racist images of the past. Chief wahoo offends Indian people the same way that little black sambo offended African Americans and the frito bandito offended the Hispanic community and should have offended all of us. It assaults the principle of justice." (2)

So, while I am happy to accept that the name Washington Redskins causes little or no offence outside American Indian communities, that does not mean it is not racist and I, therefore, reaffirm that the NFL should kick racist teams out of American football.

Thank you.

(1) Chapters 1 and 2, Made in America, Bill Bryson
(2) http://www.aimovement.org...
drafterman

Con

Let us examine your scenario:

"Now look here, Yankee, I want the finest wine available to humanity: I want it here and I want it now. What do you mean 'this is McDonald's'? God damn your insolence, I'll have a bottle of Mouton Rothschild soixante-dix-neuf or I'll have your guts for garters….bloody Yankee sommeliers, they haven't got the first idea…"

That, I think you would agree, would offend most Americans and I'd even venture to suggest that such a discourse in an American restaurant might elicit some negative comments the other diners.

I entirely agree. In line with this, let us, examine a similar scenario:

"Now look here, American, I want the finest wine available to humanity: I want it here and I want it now. What do you mean 'this is McDonald's'? God damn your insolence, I'll have a bottle of Mouton Rothschild soixante-dix-neuf or I'll have your guts for garters….bloody American sommeliers, they haven't got the first idea…"

Having removed the horridly offensive term "Yankee" and replaced it with the neutrally descriptive "American," the derogatory nature of this scenario is neutered, yes? It is now completely neutral, with minimal chance to offend anyone.

Hm. Perhaps not. What about this scenario?

"My! You managed to find a glass of Mouton Rothschild soixante-dix-neuf, and an excellent vintage too! I have to hand it to you Yanks, you know your customer service!"

Wow. A crude, pejorative statement like that is liable to get you shanked in an alley!

To be more serious, the removal of the term "Yankee" doesn't affect the rude nature of the first scenario, nor does its inclusion in the second magically make it rude. It's clear that the harm of the word comes from its use and intention on behalf of the speaker.

Regarding the accusation of racism. From your quote:

"We work to remind people of consciousness of the use of the symbols resemblance to other historic, racist images of the past."

This is selective. In the first round, your link specificly noted that the origin of the term was neutral. So the question is, why focus only upon the negative aspects of the phrase? No reason is given.

Furthemore, offensive is not synonymous with racism. I provided criteria for racism:

"Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race, based on the belief that one's own race is superior" I haven't seen anything that shows that naming a football team "Redskins" or "Braves" or "Chiefs" or "Yankees" does any of those things.

In conclusion, I will submit that the choosing of the names is, perhaps, insensitive and lacking in awareness of the sensitivities of others. But it is that at worse. Consider, if racism is truly the motive here, then how is that goal achieved through naming a sports team as such? Sports teams are intended to be a source of pride, a rallying point. So what's the thinking here? "Ha ha Native Americans, we wish to discriminate against you, so we're going to build a lucrative franchise and massive fanbase using a nickname for you. That'll teach you!" I'm sorry, but I don't understand how that works.

Regardless, thank you for posting this debate, I found this enjoyable.
Debate Round No. 2
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by DavInChains 5 years ago
DavInChains
I literally burst out laughing at the suggested name changes! Washington Foreskins lol and Arse-Raiders!
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
Rote political correctness is silly. It's like a religious dogma.

This being California, a rural restaurant was pressured into changing its name from "Al the Wop's" to "Al's Place." Tee shirt sales will plummet.

"Yankee" is still a pejorative in many places outside the US. I've been called upon to explain why we would give an insulting name to one of our baseball teams.

This debate reminds me of the Monty Python skit in which a TV program sponsors a contest to invent a derogatory name for Belgians.
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
Californian gold rush, not oil rush, sorry.
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
That was an excellent debate, thanks drafterman.

For the record, a "coolie" is an old American slang word for a Chinese man, which originated in the Californian oil rush, and is popularised in the saying "toiling like a coolie" (they were notoriously hardworking).

A "4x2" is Cockney rhyming slang for 'Jew'.

And soixante-dix-neuf (seventy-nine) is the vintage of the wine, rather than a variety - sorry to be pedantic about that!
Posted by drafterman 5 years ago
drafterman
No. I'm pretty new here, and I've heard of joke debates. I was just checking in case I inadvertantly "ruined" what was supposed to be humorous. I've been accused of being too serious in other places. I'd hate to actually be that.

In any event, I enjoyed the debate and hope to see you around elsewhere.
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
No, it's a serious debate, as you will now see from my 2nd Round argument, but I can never resist including a bit of light-hearted banter in my debates. I apologise if that serves as a distraction.
Posted by drafterman 5 years ago
drafterman
I'm sorry? Was this a "joke" debate? Did I take this too seriously?
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
Yeah, 'hot' is an Americanism that means 'very good' rather than just 'very warm' and spurs are what cowboys used to wear on the back of the boots.
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
Tottenham Hotspurs. American?
Posted by brian_eggleston 5 years ago
brian_eggleston
"Wow!" at drafterman's response, by the way! They are going to be tough arguments to counter...
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by seraine 5 years ago
seraine
brian_egglestondraftermanTied
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: Con showed that words can change meaning over time and that insults lay fully in the speaker's meaning.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
brian_egglestondraftermanTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: A surprisingly good debate on a suspect topic. Con established that amelioration does happen, and Pro did not cite anyone who in fact considered "Redskin" offensive. There probably are some people, but no citing them and establishing their significance was a critical fault in proving that amelioration has not worked.
Vote Placed by Aaronroy 5 years ago
Aaronroy
brian_egglestondraftermanTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con wins, going pro is just political bias. Keep sports political neutral, alright?
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 5 years ago
F-16_Fighting_Falcon
brian_egglestondraftermanTied
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: Con proved that the meaning of words can change over time and some words may not be derogatory even if they once were and further extended it by showing that intent is more important than the usage of any specific word.