The term “Redskin” was a translation of the Peau-Rouge neologism of the benign and longsuffering French Jesuit missionaries. It was also self-referential, and the chief of the Sauks, Quashquame, was recorded in 1825 as referring to his “Red Skin nation.” James Fenimore Cooper popularized the term in allusion to native people he thought “comely” and never as an insult. Not infrequently did various sachems refer to Europeans as “red men” because of how they were sunburned by an unfamiliar outdoor life.Share
If we want to play social engineers with the names of sports teams, we shall catch a host of problems worldwide. Consider some of the names of teams: Albania—Kuqezinjte (Reds and Blacks); Rwanda—Amavubi (Wasps); Poland—Bialo-Czerwoni (White and Reds). It may be that there is not a majority of Irishmen now among Notre Dame’s “Fighting Irish” but that is a stereotype if ever there was one. No team calls itself the “Fighting Anglo-Saxons.” Then there are the “Ragin’ Cajuns” at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the prospect of the Minnesota “Vikings” ever taking on the Hawaiian “Rainbows” conjures overwhelming carnage. Worse would be the Penn “Quakers” up against Yeshiva University’s “Maccabees.” Christendom College has the “Crusaders” which would please King Louis IX, if not President Obama, who has suggested whitewashing the Washington Redskins, although he subsequently welcomed to the White House the NHL champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. It is nice to know that the cerebral New Jersey Institute of Technology manages to field a team called the “Scots Highlanders.” There loom the problematic Gordons again.
We have not yet reached the nadir of the Nika Riots in Justinian’s Constantinople in 532. The city was as sports crazy as we are, which is always a sign of decadence, and the Hippodrome was right next to the royal palace so that the emperor could watch the races at home before the days of television. His wife Theodora was a sports fan even more fanatical than Justinian and helped stoke the violence that destroyed much of the city including that greatest of churches, Hagia Sophia. The teams were harmlessly named the Blue and the Green, but they came to represent political parties and, worse, theological parties, for the Blues were orthodox believers while the Greens were Monophysite heretics. Politics and religion played out in the circus was a volatile combination, and about thirty thousand were killed in one of the worst riots in history. (Read more.)