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Con: Name change for NFL's Washington franchise is a trivial issue

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William F. Shughart II
November 22, 2013

EDITOR'S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, “Should the Washington Redskins change their nickname?”

LOGAN, Utah -- Members of the Oneida Indian Nation are demanding that the National Football League's Washington Redskins change the team's name to something less offensive to American Indians. Sportscaster Bob Costas calls the current nickname “an insult, a slur.”

After an announcement by Dan Snyder, who has owned the team since 1999, that he refuses to do any such thing, President Obama joined the fray, saying that if he owned a professional sports team and knew that its name “was offending a sizable group of people, I'd think about changing it.”

President Obama has better things to worry about—and so do RG III and the Redskins, who have won just three games this season.

For starters, the U.S. Congress has not passed a single federal government budget on President Obama's watch. And so, America has been poised on the edge of a “fiscal cliff” twice in the past year. Headlines about budget “sequesters,” furloughs, partial government shutdowns and looming defaults on the federal debt have become routine.

President Obama's version of budget compromise? Agree to reopen the federal government unconditionally and then we can talk. And the Republicans blinked, agreeing to raise Washington's borrowing authority until Feb. 7 and finance federal spending at current levels by passing yet another “continuing resolution.” Expect déjà vu all over again early next year.

The activation of new health insurance “exchanges,” one of the centerpieces of the Affordable Care Act—aka “Obamacare”—was nothing short of disastrous. Glitches in the software program intended to provide information to consumers about the available insurance plans and premiums caused the entire system to crash. Weeks later there were still massive problems.

NSA snooping of phone calls and emails both here and overseas, scandals at the IRS for holding up the applications of “tea party” groups seeking tax-exempt status, looming fiscal train wrecks for Social Security and Medicare, and trillion dollar budget deficits as far as the eye can see. You would think the president had enough on his plate, but that is not all.

The economy still has not come anywhere close to recovering from the recent financial crisis. Unemployment remains unconscionably high, many employees are being shifted to part-time status so employers can avoid Obamacare's health insurance mandate and many others have stopped looking for jobs altogether.

The president's economic policies, such as his push for an increase in the minimum wage to $9 per hour, are hurting the very people, especially young African-Americans, to whom he promised “change.”

Moreover, as Jonathan Bean notes in the book, “Race and Liberty in America,” the best device for improving economic conditions in minority communities is the free market, not political posturing.

And there's more. The Middle East is in flames, with civil war in Syria and bloody riots in Cairo. Iran still has nuclear ambitions. The list of global trouble spots could go on and many countries have lost faith in the president's ability to lead.

President Obama at least did not blame the controversy over the Redskins' name on George W. Bush or the tea party, as he does most everything else.

By some accounts, “Redskins” was adopted by Washington's NFL team in 1933 to honor coach William “Lone Star” Dietz, whose mother was a Sioux.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) suggests keeping the team's nickname, but changing the team's logo from the profile of a feathered American Indian warrior to a red-skinned potato. That is about the level of seriousness this tempest in a teapot deserves.

William F. Shughart II is a senior fellow with the Independent Institute, Oakland, Calif. (www.independent.org) and J. Fish Smith Professor in Public Choice at Utah State University. Readers may write to him at Jon Huntsman School of Business, 3500 Old Main Hill, Logan, Utah 84322-8500; email: william.shughart@usu.edu.



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