NORTH BETHESDA, Md. - Students at a Maryland private school are being told to leave their Washington Redskins apparel at home.
When the NFL season rolls around D.C., Maryland and Virginia are Redskins country. However, it is not at the Green Acres School in North Bethesda.
For years, there has been a movement to get the Washington Redskins to change its name because some Native Americans have said it is offensive.
In a letter to parents, Neal Brown, the head of Green Acres School, asked them to not send their children to school with the team's logo or name. Brown wrote:
Last year, our community engaged in thoughtful and open discussions about the wearing of the Washington professional football team logo and the use of the term "Redskins" on campus. We first talked about it in the Staff Diversity Committee, then as a full staff, then with all of our Middle School students, and finally with several parents who joined members of the administration and the Inclusion and Diversity Committee. Students in grade 3 also raised the issue during their study of Native Americans, and then they and the 6th graders engaged in a discussion of ethnically and/or racially-derived sports team logos as part of last year's celebration of MLK Day.
Perspectives varied in each of these discussions, as one would suspect. The local football team has been around a long time and has experienced great successes; loyalty to this beloved team and passion for the game of football are understandably strong among many of our students, families, and staff members. Clearly, there is nothing wrong with rooting for one's team.
At the same time, 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. 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.
As such, 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. We pledge in our Diversity Statement to foster both "an inclusive and uplifting community" and "a sense of belonging for everyone in the Green Acres community." Similarly, our Statement of Inclusion calls upon us to "welcome people of any race, national, or ancestral origin," among other social identifiers. 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.
As a community that highly values diverse points of view and individual expression, this decision is a challenge for us. Our Philosophy Statement both "encourages respect for others," while also "celebrating individuality." At times like these, these two concepts come into conflict. We expect our students in particular to express themselves as individuals, to be themselves, to share their interests, and not to conform to peer pressure. After listening to students, parents, and colleagues, though, I believe that our need to be respectful and truly inclusive outweighs our need to support individual expression in this case.
I ask that you please not send your children to school wearing clothing with either the team name or logo in the year and years to come. I will be speaking with students to share with them my decision and to enlist their understanding and support. Additionally, we invite you to reach out to us with any questions you may have about how to discuss this with your child.
I am grateful to everyone who participated in these important conversations--and for the opportunity to lead a community dedicated to instilling in each of our students a deep respect for all people.
Brown said this was not an easy decision for him.
"I feel strongly that wearing clothing with the name of our local football team or the logo - that those were really against our school's mission and our diversity statement," Brown said. "I feel that the name of the team is a racial slur. I think the logo at best is an ethnic stereotype. At worst, it is deeply demeaning."
School administrators said the ban on Redskins gear came after long talks in classrooms and questions over the impact of team logos like the Washington Redskins that are based on race or ethnicity.
FOX 5 asked Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe about the team's name. Since the violence in Charlottesville, the governor has declared he wants all confederate statues in Virginia removed to stop hate speech.
However, McAuliffe has not called on the Redskins to change their name as he is trying to get the team to build a new stadium in Virginia.
So what is the difference between these two matters? McAuliffe said it is about public spaces and a private company.
"There is no moral equivalency, please!" the governor said. "We are talking about monuments that are owned and controlled by the state. State property versus a private company. A private company has to make their own decisions. As governor, I take action on those things that I can affect."
For their part, the Washington Redskins and their owner Daniel Snyder have insisted for years that they will never change the name of their team.