We are fortunate to have some of the best nicknames in America in Illinois. Freeport and New Berlin are home to the Pretzles. The folks in Teutopolis are proud of their Wooden Shoes. Fisher loves it Bunnies. And then there is the maybe the best high school nickname of all -- the Hoopeston Cornjerkers.
What is a Cornjerker? It's a term that describes farm workers who picked corn before machines were made to make corn picking easier. Could someone be offended by a mascot called the Cornjerkers? I'm sure. People today can be offended by a lot of things.
The National Football League team stationed in our nation's capital has been called the Washington Redskins since it moved from Boston in 1937. The team has been one of the NFL's top franchises. The team has won three Super Bowl titles and has a fiercely loyal fan base. The "Redskins" monicker has been a point of debate for decades.
Some see the term as having negative racial connotations. Others see the name as honoring Native Americans.
"I admire the Redskins name," former team owner Jack Kent Cooke said during an earlier controversy. "I think it stands for bravery, courage, and a stalwart spirit, and I see no reason why we shouldn't continue to use it."
Current team owner Daniel Snyder feels the same way. He recently said the team will never change. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell backed Snyder this summer, pointing to public opinion polls that few people polled found the team's nickname offensive.
In the last few weeks, though, more and more people have spoken up against the team's name. Even President Obama earlier this month said he would consider changing the team's name if he were the owner.
"If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team -- even if it had a storied history -- that was offending a sizeable group of people, I'd think about changing it," Obama said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Writers in some national media outlets, including those at Sports Illustrated and USA Today, recently have made the decision to stop using the team's nickname when they are writing about the franchise. The Kansas City Star has had a long-standing policy against using the term "Redskins" in its paper.
During Sunday night's nationally televised game between the Cowboys and Redskins on NBC, Bob Costas weighed in on the topic. Costas admitted that most Native Americans say they're not offended by the name. He said objections to names like the Redskins "strike many of us as political correctness run amok."
"But think for a moment about the term ‘Redskins,' and how it truly differs from all the others," Costas said. "Ask yourself what the equivalent would be, if directed toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any other ethnic group.
"When considered that way, ‘Redskins' can't possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It's an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent. It is fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended. But, if you take a step back, isn't it clear to see how offense ‘might' legitimately be taken?"
Other pro teams have changed their nicknames. The NBA team in New Orleans this year is now the Pelicans. The Major League Baseball team in Tampa Bay is simply the Rays after being known as the Devil Rays for many years. Even in Washington, D.C., a team has changed its name. The NBA team in town changed from the Bullets to the Wizards in 1997 after the ownership didn't want its team to be associated with gun violence.
Will pressure from the White House and national media outlets force the Redskins' hand? It may not happen soon, but it's pretty safe bet that they'll eventually sing something different than "Hail to the Redskins" after NFL games in D.C.