Officials at a Maryland private school have barred students and staff from wearing gear bearing the Washington Redskins name and/or logo, calling the long-criticized moniker and image “intensely derogatory.”
Neal Brown, head of North Bethesda’s Green Acres School, made the announcement in a poignant letter published on the school’s website, implementing the rule just in time for the start of the new school year — and 2017 NFL season.
“The term ‘Redskin’ is a racial slur. Its use, whether intentional or not, can be deeply insulting and offensive. It is a term that demeans a group of people,” Brown wrote. “Similarly, the team’s logo also can reasonably be viewed as racially demeaning. At best, the image is an ethnic stereotype that promotes cultural misunderstanding; at worst, it is intensely derogatory.”
The school instructs students from age 3 through eight grade.
Brown acknowledged the NFL team’s success — as well as students’ and staff’s “loyalty” to the team that plays at FedEx Field in nearby Hyattsville, Maryland — but noted that the decision came after much discussion with community members, students, staff and parents.
“Having students or staff members on campus wearing clothing with this name and/or this team logo feels profoundly at odds with our community’s mission and values,” Brown continued in the letter.
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“Further, as our guidelines for ‘appropriate dress’ in the Community Handbook require students to ‘dress in ways that demonstrate respect for others,’ we cannot continue to allow children or staff members — however well intentioned — to wear clothing that disparages a race of people.”
He asked that parents not send their children to school wearing the team name or logo “in the year and years to come.” He invited parents to voice their concerns and vowed to speak with students about the decision.
The team’s name and logo has long been a source of controversy, dating back to the 1970s when a delegation of Native American leaders met with then-Redskins President Edward Bennett Williams and urged him to change the team’s name, the Washington Post reports.
Now, Brown has said he isn’t looking to condemn the team.
“We want to approach this with children in a very age-appropriate and sensitive way. We’re in no way trying to vilify anyone for rooting for the local football team because, in truth, I root for the local football team,” he told the Bethesda Beat.
“I think it’s only honest to acknowledge the times when the need to be respectful and thoughtful and sensitive overrides people’s ability to express themselves as they’d like.”