Washington, DC football team using the name “Redskins.”


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Washington DC Football Team’s Use of the Name ‘Redskins’


Introduction. 2

Legal Section. 4

Ethics Section. 5

Utilitarian Ethical Analysis. 5

Kantian Ethical Analysis. 7

Ethical Egoism Analysis. 8

Social Responsibility Section. 10

Conclusion. 12

References. 13


The following is an analytical paper that follows a method of three-value analysis: law, ethics, and social responsibility. It also explores the impact of each of these three dimensions on a current, controversial, and narrowly focused topic that has direct or indirect implications for business. By definition, the law may be viewed as a system of rules that a country, community or organization follows that may be enforced by the use of penalties (Bently& Sherman, 2014). Ethics, on the other hand, can be taken to mean the moral principles guiding a person’s behavior. It is widely regardedas the outcome of one’s evaluation of the perception of good and bad (Driver, 2013). Ethics may be said to comprise duties that are voluntarily assumed or embraced as a necessity in order to sustain the equilibrium that exists between the economy and the ecosystem (Brammer, Jackson &Matten, 2012).The third concept, social responsibility, encompasses the duty that entities have to perform based on their obligation to act for the benefit of society at large.


In line with the requirements of this paper, the current, controversial and narrowly focused topic that been selected is Washington Redskin’s name controversy which involves the logo of the Washington DC team. In recent times, Native Americans as well as other lobby groups have come forward to oppose the use of the name ‘Redskins’ in reference to the Washington DC team, instead proposing a name change. These groups argue that the name manifests a case of ethnic stereotyping against Native Americans. This is because initially, the Native Americans, or red Indians as they are commonly referred to, were thought to have a red complexion. However, with passing times and increased development, the naming or profiling of groups based on their skin color came to be regarded as discriminatory hence the opposition to the name.

The selected topic is significant as it forms part of a larger controversy of ethnic discrimination in America. The profiling of groups based on race, skin color or native descent is a rampant practice in the country and it calls for radical reforms and change of thinking among the people. The Washington Redskins name is viewed as derogatory to the Native Americans ands and therefore promoting misunderstandings and prejudice. This is more so because a native name has been given to a sports team that is comprised of White Americans, African Americans, Latinos and even international players. The name ‘Redskins’ therefore presents an implication that the team is composed of Native Americans or is owned or operated by the same group, which is a far cry from reality. This topic is also relevant in the America of today where the different factions of society fight daily against discrimination and lesser treatment due to their appearance, race or ethnic backgrounds and also against any preferential treatment of a particular community or race. In light of the negative criticism of the name, support still exists. The team’s owners as well as a sizeable representation of the fans; complete with Native Americans, stand firm by the name ‘Redskins’ citing that it is a symbol of national heritage and an honor of the numerous milestones, developments and values of Native Americans and not as an evocation of any negativeconnotations.

The history of the name controversy with Washington DC’s Redskins began as far back as 1972. The existing team logo came into being after a recommendation of the president of the National Congress of American Indians who also served as former Blackfeet tribesman and chairman. The logo was modeled in the likeness of the Buffalo Nickel. The name ‘Redskins’ was coined in 1933 when Boston Braves split to form a baseball and a football team. The co-owner of the team, George Marshall renamed the teamprobably to avoid confusion with the NFL Braves or as a tribute to the team’s former coach, William Henry Dietz. A controversial history of the term ‘Redskins’ states that the name emerged from a tradition where a bounty was offered for every dead Indian. The name was used to refer to the blood-filled scalp belonging to the Native Americans after being delivered as a bounty. Bounty hunters hired to kill Native Americans had to bring back their scalp as skin as evidence of death. The use of this term today still evokes negative sentiments among some Native Americans as well as other Americans in general.

Legal Section

The legality of actions comes into play when any controversy arises, especially those involving huge corporate and ethical or moral issues. As in the case of the Washington DC Redskins, their decision to use and retain their name as well as to use their log and team mascot has aroused legal battles. The Washington DC trademark dispute emerged as a result of the continuing name controversy. A trademark can be described as a recognizable sign, design or expression that identifies a particular product or service. In the case of the Redskins, this implies their mascot which was banned following an order by a federal judge to cancel the team’s federal trademark registrations for the use of the name, mascot and logo. This, the judge argued, was effected because the name proved to be offensive and a racial slur to Native Americans and people of Indian origin.


      The team’s management argued that the court’s decision could lead to its detriment by tainting its brand and resulting in loss of profits. The team however said in statements to the media that it will apply for appeal in order to get state protection for its brand, team and players. In as much as the federal judge thought that he was acting in the best interest of the public, his actions could have an adverse effect not only on the Redskins but also on other companies that might have controversial products, services or logos. The revocation of the Redskins trademarks also served as a curtailment of their legal right to expression and ownership of business. In as much as a company or entity is obligated to act in accordance to the common good, the said entity also has the right and freedom of expression and association to whatever or whomever they wish.

Ethics Section

Utilitarian Ethical Analysis

            Ethics is one of the five branches of philosophy with the other four being metaphysics, esthetics, politics and epistemology. Philosophy itself can be taken to mean the study of the essential nature of knowledge, existence as well as the study of reality or simply as a system of thought. Ethics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the rightness or wrongness of man’s actions. Ethics is an important aspect of existence as it decides a person’s course of action. It enables us to rationally organize our actions, goals and aspirations and consequently work towards them.

            The utilitarian ethical theory is one that states that a person’s actions can be judged as right or wrong based on its effects. This theory emanates from English Philosopher Jeremy Bentham as well as from economist John Stuart Mill. These developers advanced the argument that an action is considered to be right if it brings about happiness and considered wrong if it results in the opposite of happiness. This happiness stated here is not only of the individual in question but of everyone around him/ her(Shafer-Landau, 2012).The utilitarian theory is an obvious opposition to the theory of egoism that tends to suppose that people should pursue their own self-interests and do what they perceive to be the best for them. This self-interest is to be pursued at the expense of all other people. Utilitarianism is also contradictory to other moral theories that view actions as right or wrong independent of the consequences they elicit. This theory also differs from the others that that judge actions based on the motive behind them. Consequently, this would mean that although a motive was wrong, it can lead to a right action. This theory can best be summarized with the phrase ‘the end justifies the means’.

            As per the given numerical model of utilitarianism, this theory argues that happiness, satisfaction, pleasure, ecstasy and joy as well as other similar terms are not synonyms but that they all represent positive feelings. Pain, unhappiness, suffering and agony are viewed as negative feelings. In line with this, a utilitarian might opt to endure a large amount of pain and unhappiness at the moment with the promise of later happiness. The term ‘pain’ however is avoided in discussions of this theory as it raises ambiguity since what pain is for a normal person is not the same thing for, say a masochist.

            Based on the utilitarian model, the Washington DC’s Redskin’s name controversy has been handled contrary to the key principles of this theory. The theory simply states that an action can be judged to be either right or wrong based on the outcomes it produces. The use of the name ‘Redskins’ by this football team has produced more negative than positive effects in the recent past. Studies carried out by independent entities have revealed that a significant number of Native Americans, and more so those of the Blackfeet tribe where the logo of the team originated. Critics have argued that as opposed to being a celebration of the Native American values and achievements, the name has only served as a racial slur and an offensive and non-inclusive title. Although the name was initially meant for good, the negative outcomes nullify this initial intent.

Kantian Ethical Analysis

            Kantian ethics is a code of ethics which states that an action is considered right or wrong based, not on its effects, but on whether or not it fulfills its duty. This moral theory was developed and advanced by German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).  Kantian ethics proposes that individuals or bodies follow a moral principle that doesn’t change in spite of circumstances (Orozco&Poonamallee, 2014).

Immanuel Kant’s ethics principles include Categorical Imperatives which are unconditional commands. This means that even if acting contrary to a given directive might be beneficial to an individual, he or she may not do so as it is forbidden. Morality is based on the categorical imperative as morality is what commands individuals and their actions. A person’s morality cannot be opted out of under any circumstance. The categorical imperative has three different formulations or ways of defining it. The first formulation is the universal law. This states that a person isn’t allowed to do anything that they would not want every other person to do.Basically, do unto others as you would have done unto you, no exceptions. The second way is the Formula of the End in itself which explains that human beings should not use people merely as objects but that we should recognize and appreciate the value and dignity of every individual.The third maxim is a focus on universal progression and it explains thatwe as human beings possess the authority to shape the world around us productively following reason (Driver, 2013).

In line with the first test or the first maxim of the categorical imperative, the use of the name ‘Redskins’ goes totally against Kantian ethics as the supporters of the retention of the name would not like it if they themselves were discriminated against based on their race or skin color. The current controversy presented above also flaunts the Kantian ethics principle of the kingdom of ends. By continued use of the offensive term, the Washington DC football team appears to use the Native Americans as objects represented in their logos and costumes and not inherently as human beings and equal Americans who deserve dignity and respect. The agent-receiver test which focuses on our ability as human beings to shape our environment and make a difference in the world around us when applied would suggest that the Washington Redskins have chosen to make a difference by standing firm on their name and the history of their team and not bowing or caving in to negative voices of criticism. Similarly it would imply that the team has chosen to propagate discrimination and injustice by use of a name that is considered by some people asderogatory.

Kant’s moral theory states that an action is seen as wrong or right depending, not on the effects, but on whether or not it fulfills its duty. This is contrary to utilitarianism which is more of a stickler for rules while Kantian ethics focuses on practicality. The Washington Redskins have used their name since 1933 and consequently it is not only a carrier of history but it is also the recognizable name by fans and clients alike. The purpose of the name change from the Boston Braves to the Redskins was meant to distinguish it with the former team while also serving as a recognition and honor to former coach Dietz. Both of the two purposes listed above have been fulfilled so according to Kantian ethics, the controversy is null and void and the team ought to retain the name as it is and as it has always been.

Ethical Egoism Analysis

      The baseline of this ethical theory is the argument that everyone is better off if they pursue their own self-interest. According to philosophy, egoism is a theory that dictates that an individual self is, or should be, the sole and primary motivation behind their actions and decisions. Egoism can either be described as descriptive or normative. Descriptive egoism is the positive description that views this theory as an actual representation of human life and daily dealings. Descriptive egoism argues that inherently, people are motivated to act in their own self-interest without any external promptings or outside influence. Normative egoism on the other hand is the negative aspect that states that people should always be motivated to act in their best self-interest regardless of any other previous behavioral patterns.(Orozco &Poonamallee, 2014).

Ethical egoism is a psychological theory that can be viewed from a personal, individual or from a universal point of view(Shafer-Landau, 2012). Personal ethical egoism states that only a specific individual to act in accordance to self-interest and there are no mentions on the expectations on other individuals. Individual ethical egoism advances that all people should serve their own interests while universal ethical egoism states that all individuals should pursue their self-interests exclusive of one another. The baseline of this ethical theory is the argument that everyone is better off if they pursue their own self-interest.

In line with the ethical egoistic principle of everyone for themselves, the Washington Redskins have two alternative courses of action. First, they can decide that acting in their own self-interest would involve ignoring the naysayers and refusing adamantly to change or replace the team’s name. This is the current path being taken by Dan Snyder, the team’s owner who states that it would be foolish to ignore the Redskins 81 year old heritage and to change the name thereby letting go of their tribute to the Native Americans. The second alternative would be look at the situation from a different perspective and to conclude that the best course of action that would be in the best self-interest of the team would be to compromise and give in to the name change as this would ensure peace and eliminate controversies with any interested and uninterested parties presently and also in the future.

Social Responsibility Section

Social responsibility, a term that is most often used interchangeably with Corporate Social responsibility, is essential to a business as it helps to solve certain existing societal problems such as educational needs, natural disaster management, crisis management, food aid, shelterand other pertinent matters. It also boost a company’s public image as members of the public view the company as caring not just for profit but also for the good of its clients. Social responsibility, more often than not has a positive effect on the price of a company’s shares(Servaes& Tamayo, 2013). Most importantly, social responsibility is an avenue through which organizations can fulfill their mandate of helping the community to solve its problems and to better itself.

      Social responsibility can be defined as the principle that states that entities have a moral obligation to act for the benefit of society at large. When applied to the business sector, social responsibility is referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility (Brammer, Jackson &Matten, 2012). Social responsibility implies that people and organizations must behave in such a manner as to be sensitive to social, environmental, economic as well as cultural issues. Social responsibility is definitely much more effective when companies take up these duties willingly and voluntarily as opposed to being compelled by governing bodies or being threatened with punitive action (Servaes& Tamayo, 2013). Social responsibility boosts the morale of employees as they feel like they are contributing towards the common good and not just increasing their profit margins.


The Washington DC’s Redskins is a community conscious and responsible entity as it carries out its social responsibility mandate through the Redskins Charitable Foundation. This is a charity foundation started and run by the team as a way to give back to the community. The foundation aims at making positive and measurable impact on lives of children in the Washington DC area and even beyond. For the sixteen years it has been in operation, the foundation has ploughed back over sixteen million dollars to the community which roughly translates to a million dollars a year. This organization focuses on health and wellness services, education and community outreach. Programs include youth football, resource provision for schools, diet advice, holiday giveaways and career counseling. The above is a demonstration of the Washington Redskins’ attempt to give back to the society in the best way they know how. In spite of the negative publicity and controversy surrounding the team, it is also important to recognize the positive aspects of its existence and not just focus on the supposed negative.

In addition to the team’s current Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, they could also consider expanding their community projects to adults as well to other factions of society. The foundation can also consider partnering with a local school to provide mentorship by the team players to either high school or middle school students. Over and above all this, my personal recommendation would be that if the team really wants to do what is best for the community and for society at large, they should seriously consider abandoning the name ‘Redskins’ which is considered offensive by some and adopting a more neutral, and easily acceptable name.


Conclusively, the name controversy of the Washington DC Redskins has legal, ethical as well as social responsibility implications. Legally, the use of the name ‘Redskins’ was concluded to be offensive to Native Americans by a federal judge, resulting in the revocation of the team’s trademark licenses. According to utilitarian ethics, the current controversy can be solved by focusing on the effects. Kantian ethics justifies using the name ‘Redskins’ by the Washington team as the name fulfils the purpose for which it was intended.  Ethical egoism on the other hand can be seen as the greatest motivator for the owner’s adamant refusal of a name change as he is acting out in the team’s best self-interest of the team. In spite of the current controversy surrounding the team, the Washington Redskins is a very environmentally, culturally, economically and socially conscious team as it is involves in numerous projects to assist children in the Washington area. In as much as the name might carry historical references and act as a tribute to Native American pursuits and former greatness, it would be best suited for the team to change it and adopted a new one. This is because anything that does more harm than good dismisses the good and forces people to focus on the harm. For as long as the team remains the Washington Redskins, it will be viewed as ethnically stereotypical, out of touch and a bother to society.


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