Joe Theismann Says He Was ‘Representing the Great Native American Nations’ When Playing for Redskins

Joe TheismannAt this point, the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins’ team name isn’t going away any time soon.

While the name, which detractors say is flatly a racial slur, has drawn ire for years, the controversy was reignited in earnest back in January, when Washington D.C. mayor Vincent C. Gray called upon the team to change its name. The team subsequently replied that it had no plans to change the name and launched a campaign defending its use. Later, owner Dan Snyder came out and defiantly said the team would never change its name, while even some members of Congress called upon Washington to drop its moniker. At one point, franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III seemed to tweet in support of the name, while NFL commissioner Roger Goodell defended it in a reply letter to Congress. Oh, and all the while, a national poll claimed widespread national support for the Redskins.

Does that about sum it up?

Now, franchise icon Joe Theismann is weighing in on the matter, and he has a very different take than most defenders of the name. The Super Bow XVII champion was recently in South Dakota for a youth clinic, where he was interviewed by The Argus Leader. Theismann was asked about the controversy surrounding his old team, and the 12-year Redskin responded with a story he said occurred that very morning.

“I can tell you that when I was at the children’s hospital this morning, there was a young Native American boy there with his parents,” Theisman said. “His grandmother wanted a picture with me, and his father took the picture. And as I shook his hand the father said to me ‘You’re a Redskin,’ and he said it in a very complimentary way, which was very humbling to me.”

Theisman continued with a more straightforward defense of the name, albeit in a much more personal manner than most.

“I was very proud to play for the Washington Redskins, and I did it to honor Native people in that regard. I think sometimes people perceive words in their own particular way. What happens, what Mr. Snyder decides to do is totally up to him. I can just tell you that when I put that uniform on, and I put that helmet on with the Redskin logo on it, I felt like I was representing more than the Washington Redskins. I was representing the great Native American nations that exist in this country.”

Theisman’s defense of the name is unique in many regards. While most supporters have essentially argued that the word has become divorced from its history, Theisman is fully embracing its roots — albeit in a controversial manner. Either way, it’s just further evidence that the larger controversy isn’t going to die down in the near future.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Joe Theismann

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