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In his article “Redskins Forever?” Ian Crouch uses several techniques to successfully argue that the Washington Redskins should not be forced to change their nickname. This article was written for the online newspaper, Newyorker.com. Activists believe that the name of the NFL franchise should be forced to change because it is offensive and degrading towards Native Americans. Several colleges using Native Americans as their mascot have changed their name in recent history such as Stanford University evolving from Indians to Cardinal, St. John’s University changing from Redman to Red Storm, and Miami (Ohio) University switching from Redskins to Redhawks (“List of Schools That Changed Native American Nicknames” 1). However, the National Football League has yet to make the Redskins change their name. Ian Crouch constructs his very persuasive argument to convince by appealing to ethos, pathos, and logos and by arguing that the Washington Redskins should keep their name by referencing Native American opinion, historical influences, and the privatization of the organization.
I chose to analyze Ian Crouch’s article for a variety of reasons. I mainly chose this because I have always been a sports fan, and in recent years the topic of offensive mascot nicknames has become a highly debated topic in the sports community. I was first introduced to this topic when the University of Illinois Fighting Illini got rid of their “Chief” mascot sparking outrage and protests from several Fighting Illini students, fans, and alumni. I have followed the topic somewhat closely ever since. Initially, it was difficult for me to come to a conclusion about whether nicknames and mascots should be kept or changed because I did not know the extent of how the name negatively affected Native Americans. I was intrigued to investigate this battle between tradition and tolerance. The fact that this subject is an argument says that our culture is trying to erase any trace back to the days of racial discrimination and severe racism but some people are resilient to some aspects of this change. Of course, poor Native American treatment is a dark part of American history but this rhetorical article shows that past errors perhaps should not be corrected at the expense of sports mascots.
Throughout the article, Crouch builds a compelling argument to convince and the first tool he uses is referencing polls on American and specifically Native American opinions. This section of his argument is a definite appeal to logos because the polls provide evidence and statistics in order to get his point across to the readers of the article. Crouch includes the polls in his argument because numbers do not lie and cannot be easily disputed. The first poll referenced was an AP poll conducted in April 2013 in which general Americans were questioned concerning the Redskins nickname. The results were staggering because a mere eleven percent of respondents opposed the name and a whopping seventy-five percent were in favor of the name. Crouch included this poll to show that, in general, Americans are fond of this name and do not want to see it changed. Next, Crouch offers a more effective poll. A 2004 Annenberg poll of strictly self-identified Native Americans reported that over ninety percent did not have an issue with Washington using Redskins as their name. This was necessary to show the opinion of the group of people that supposedly are offended by the name. The readers now, with little doubt, can conclude that an overwhelming majority of Americans and Native Americans are not offended because of the results. Some critics may argue the credibility of these polls, so Crouch brilliantly appeals to ethos and provides a statements from an active Native American chief of the Aleutian tribe. The chief, Stephen Dodson, states that Redskin was used by his people as a term of endearment and it is an honor to have a football team called that. This appeals to ethos because it solely establishes credibility because there is not a more valid and qualified Native American than a chief and no one better to voice the opinion of an entire tribe and Native American community as a whole. By including these polls and referencing Stephen Dodson he guided his audience through logos and ethos to believe that the majority of current Native Americans are not offended by the Washington Redskins’ name.
Another persuasive technique that Crouch uses is the historical anecdote in which the Washington Redskins originally got their name. “As the story goes, in 1933, back when they were the Boston Braves, the team changed its name to Redskins to honor its coach, William Henry (Lone Star) Dietz, who claimed to be of Sioux Heritage” (Crouch 2). This story greatly contributes to his argument because it shows that the name was installed in order to honor the Native Americans, not to poke fun at their skin color. I think Crouch strategically included this particular story rather than an official statement made by the organization. This is because the anecdote involved Coach Deitz, who was an active member of the organization during the name change and showed no public opposition to the name. If Crouch chose to include a generic statement from the franchise regarding the intended meaning of the name, it would have been viewed skeptically and wouldn’t have had the same effect as the anecdote. Many people would question a statement’s authenticity and truthfulness, but this story involving a Native American coach is much more believable. By including this story, Crouch eliminates any doubt that the Redskins are or were at any point trying to offend the race.
Crouch also views the problem from the owner and leaders of the organization to let readers understand that it would not make much financial and practical sense to change the name. Not only will the name change bother fans, but could potentially hurt revenue. He states that the change of name will upset loyal fans and implies that this could hurt the financial state of the organization because these fans will feel betrayed and potentially become a fan of another team. This is important to his argument because most of Americans and probably the readers of this article too, are money oriented and driven. They would not expect the owners of the Redskins to risk revenue in order to make a few people happy. At the end of the day, it is a privately run and operated business, and Crouch helps the reader understand that no one should be able to force the private organization to operate a certain way. By putting the reader in the position of the owner, Crouch is able persuade the reader that changing the name strategically does not make sense for the organization.
Throughout his article “Redskins Forever?”, Ian Crouch brilliantly constructs an argument to convince regarding the Washington Redskins keeping their current nickname by using several appeals, referring to Native American opinion, and several other rhetorical techniques. Originally appearing on Newyorker.com, the author of this article did a great job making his argument by not only presenting all the facts on both opposing viewpoints, but also arguing assertively that the mascot nickname should stay the way it is. Lack of overwhelming Native American opposition and the fact that this particular organization is privately owned make up the basic structure of Crouch’s argument. He also does a great job of appealing to ethos, pathos, and logos on multiple occasions. Composing an excellent argument on a controversial topic is not a particularly easy thing to achieve, but Ian Crouch successfully does in his article “Redskins Forever?”
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