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Smart Bombs: Redskins’ team name rooted in bigotry

The issue of whether Washington’s football team should keep the name Redskins is needlessly complicated with diversions into debates about “political correctness.”

My high school, the Western Warriors in Las Vegas, adopted the Redskins fight song as our own. Here’s part of what we sang back in the 1970s:

“Scalp ’um, swamp ’um, we will take ’um big score.”

Would anyone today feel comfortable speaking to a Native American in this Tonto-like tongue? It’s so thoroughly degrading and cringe-inducing, even the Washington Redskins changed the words. Was that a bow to political correctness? No, it was an end to stupidity.

So why do that, and keep “Redskins?” We’re told it’s a nod to pride and tradition. But the history of that team is that its original owner, George Preston Marshall, was a bigot.

He moved the team from Boston (where it was originally called the Braves) and marketed it as the South’s team. Marshall was the last NFL owner to employ African American players. Shirley Povich, a sportswriter for the Washington Post, once wrote: “Jim Brown, born ineligible to play for the Redskins, integrated their end zone three times yesterday.”

Marshall reluctantly agreed to end his segregationist ways in exchange for the federal funds that financed the building of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in 1961. This is all documented in “Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins,” by Thomas G. Smith.

So it’s not such a leap to consider that “Redskins” was a slur from the beginning, and the tradition being upheld is rooted in bigotry.

More Demand. Nick Hanauer, a super-rich Seattleite and supporter of the $15 minimum wage, recently wrote an essay in Politico aimed at fellow American “zillionaires,” or those in the top 0.1 percent income bracket.

His basic message is that it’s in the interests of zillionaires to break up concentrations of wealth because it hurts demand, which hurts the economy. Or put his way, there’s only so many pairs of pants a rich guy can buy.

In case you hadn’t noticed, that rising tide that was to follow tax cuts for the rich hasn’t lifted all boats. However, the wealthy, for the most part, support policies that expand income inequality.

Hanauer’s response: “The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn’t believing that if the rich get richer, it’s good for the economy. It’s believing that if the poor get richer, it’s bad for the economy.”

Scandal! Imagine this scandal at an executive branch agency of the federal government:

The director refuses to turn over documents to a congressional panel. Congress finds her in contempt. She resigns. A top administrator misuses funds to help political allies and is sent to prison on a perjury conviction. More than 20 other employees are removed from the agency.

The Internal Revenue Service under President Obama? No, the Environmental Protection Agency under President Reagan. Ann Gorsuch Brown was the director. Rita Lavelle was the jailed administrator. The scandals involved money that was supposed to be used for Superfund cleanups.

Reagan’s two-term presidency is highly popular among conservatives, and it rates high among presidential scholars. But his two administrations also had the most people who were either investigated, indicted or convicted. A total of 138, according to Haynes Johnson, who wrote “Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years.”

Bill Clinton, another popular president, was impeached. Shortly thereafter, he achieved his highest approval rating in office, 73 percent.

In fact, there were a lot more indicted officials in the Reagan and Clinton administrations than in the Bush and Obama ones. Maybe Americans like a good scandal. Or, more likely, they’ve tuned out political games that exaggerate them.