The NY Post reported today that President Obama said he "would consider" changing the name of the Washington Redskins, given that some consider the name offensive to Native Americans.
The article quoted Obama, and cited a recent poll, but didn't quote a single Native American on the subject. (I've heard that most Native Americans don't particularly like to be called that, and prefer to be known as "Indians." Evidently, "Native American" is an appellation concocted to soothe the sensibilities of white liberals, not Indians.)
Every now and then the suggestion pops up that the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Braves, and Cleveland Indians change their names as well.
I've never quite understood the reasoning here. Sports teams often name themselves after people -- or creatures -- they admire. Some names can connote a point of local interest (such as the Houston Oilers, or the Houston Rockets, or the Denver Nuggets), but most teams name themselves after a creature with a notable fighting spirit -- a creature they want to emulate. Hence the abundance of teams nationwide named after lions, tigers, wolverines, badgers, timberwolves, bears, falcons, eagles, and jaguars.
Note that there are no teams named after worms, ants, gnats, stink bugs, mice, or cuckoo birds.
I've never heard anybody object to the name "Minnesota Vikings" on the grounds that this is hurtful to the feelings of Scandinavians. Nor have I heard any Irish-Americans wax offended about the Boston Celtics.
If liberals did object to the name "Vikings," I can just imagine what they'd say:
"Vikings were a violent people known for invading neighboring countries and for pillaging and raping. This is a stereotype we want to move away from, and we consider it highly prejudicial and offensive to the many good Americans of Scandinavian descent across the country."
But don't expect to hear this objection; most understand that the name is in fact a compliment to Swedes and Norwegians.
Just as naming your team the Braves, Chiefs, or even Redskins is a compliment to Indians.