By Drew Stevens (@hismindonpaper)
Amidst a reinvigorated public outcry, the National Football League’s Washington franchise soothed decades worth of tension between itself and the Native American community by announcing the intention Monday to retire its name and logo, established since 1933.
Though it can be surely attributable to a fear of financial forfeiture more so than the righting of the moral compass of Washington majority owner Daniel Snyder, his decision to re-brand his team illustrates how this current age of heightened sensitivity toward social injustice can unravel even the most stubborn threads of tradition.
And yet the fabric of our country remains fashioned in much the same way it was nearly two months ago when George Floyd was murdered by now former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
A portion of law enforcement agencies from around the country have either unofficially banned, discontinued or vowed to more strictly regulate the use of the specific neck restraint that robbed Floyd of his life. Last month, New York lawmakers actually passed legislation to ban the use of chokeholds. Named after the 43-year-old Black man who was the victim of a prohibited choke hold six years ago, the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act would create a new crime of aggravated strangulation punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Still, anything short of the enactment of federal legislation to squash widespread police brutality, which is sadly more a societal norm than an anomaly, holds even less weight than any one of President Donald Trump’s disjointed proclamations about COVID-19.
Of greater substance was the introduction of two pieces of legislation — the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the Justice Act — last month.
Each bill sought to address the concerns of those who so passionately protested the use of deadly force against unarmed civilians, especially Black men and women, but took different routes to do so.
Paramount to both proposals was the creation of a national database on use-of-force incidents. Each bill would have restricted police chokeholds and initiated new training procedures, including increased utilization of body cameras.
However, whereas the Republican-proposed Justice Act simply encouraged police departments to end such practices as choke holds and no-knock warrants, the Democratic bill mandated those changes.
Unfortunately, unless the parties can agree to a bipartisan compromise, not a single stitch from either proposal will be written into law. With that in mind, this discussion appears destined for the shelf ahead of November’s presidential election.
Given the social climate, one would’ve hoped to have seen more tangible change than that offered by our sports leagues.
NBA players sporting various social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys while racing baseline to baseline across basketball courts emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” is noteworthy.
The NFL committing to play “Lift Every Voice and Sing” before each one of its Week 1 contests feels patronizing but is nonetheless a pivot in the right direction for an organization that threatened to discipline any player who engaged in on-field protests of the national anthem two years ago.
But these symbolic gestures ring rather hollow to those starved for literal reform, and there’s currently little evidence to suggest an impending harvest. You don’t have to look further than Washington to see more evidence of hypocrisy — even in the midst of its play for good PR by moving beyond its slur nickname, the organization has to face well-deserved scrutiny in the face of over a dozen former female employees coming out with accusations of sexual harassment.
Seeing as how it took nearly five decades and the threat of more than a half trillion dollar loss in assets just to spur the change of Washington’s team nickname, there’s no telling what would provoke the purification of a country in which lynching is not yet a federal crime.
Drew Stevens is a writer based in Chicago