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March Mania

OUR OPINION: Yes, the Redskins name should go

The controversy over the UND's Fighting Sioux nickname in Grand Forks simmered for 30 years, boiled over only when superheated by the NCAA and remains noticeably warm today. At hockey games, many fans still close out the national anthem by shouting, "Sioux."

In contrast, the controversy over Grand Forks Central High School's Redskins nickname basically flared up and was extinguished (by the nickname's removal) over the course of about 11 months.

And that was 22 years ago, in 1991.

The difference?

That's easy:

"Redskins" is an ethnic slur.

"Fighting Sioux" is not.

That made "Redskins" very difficult -- and "Fighting Sioux" much easier -- to persuasively defend.

The situation remains true to this day, which is why letters by the hundreds defending Fighting Sioux have poured into the Herald over the past 20 years, while very few or maybe even no letters have held out for the Redskins nickname.

North Dakota is a long way from the nation's capital, so the Washington Redskins' owners and fans probably won't pay much attention to sentiments here. But they should -- because North Dakota is the scene of the nation's longest-running and most intense battle by far over sports teams' American Indian nicknames.

A North Dakota tribe even had a referendum on the subject, as every state resident knows. Opinions have been forged in blast-furnace debates, tempered in the heat of courtrooms and the Legislature and polished on the stones of statewide popular votes.

And after several decades of this ever-sharper and better-informed argument, one conclusion remains universally clear:

"Redskins" is an ethnic slur. Or as a Herald editorial put it in 1991, "'Redskins' is a derogatory name, whether or not anyone who used it meant it to be derogatory."

That's why the Grand Forks School Board should drop Central High School's Redskins nickname, the editorial board and a great many residents urged.

Which the School Board promptly did. Which the owners of the Washington Redskins also should do, given America's broad consensus that our nation is better off with less use of highly charged ethnic slurs.

-- Tom Dennis for the Herald

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