When Philadelphia and Washington meet Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, neither the football players nor the fans are likely to spend much time talking about the teams' nicknames. All they will want to do is win the game.
Team nicknames may become a more viable topic after all the Monday morning quarterbacks have dissected the game. But throughout the rollercoaster ride of emotions called an NFL season, it will be difficult for reason to prevail among diehard fans.
During the season is the worst time to ask fans of one of the NFL's oldest franchises to call their team something else. It's the worst time to ask them to discard the name their team has had through 50 years of history, during which it won three Super Bowls — three more than Philadelphia has ever won.
Maybe after the season, fans can dial down their emotions and admit the nickname didn't win any championships. Credit for that goes to players like Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien, and to coaches like George Allen and Joe Gibbs.
Maybe when Washington fans, including owner Daniel Snyder, finally put aside their emotions, they will better understand why a years-long effort to change their team's nickname persists. They will understand why a "Change the Mascot" campaign has been picking up steam.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled in June that the team's trademarks are "disparaging to Native Americans." Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) says she will seek revocation of the NFL's tax-exempt status if the league doesn't make the team change its name.
There is a precedent to emulate. Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin in 1997 changed his team's name to the Wizards, in part due to the high murder rate in the nation's capital. That didn't void the team's 1948 championship, when it was located in Baltimore, nor its 1978 NBA crown won in Washington.
Neither would a name change alter Washington's NFL history. But it would be an acknowledgement that the nickname chosen in 1933, when the team originally known as the Braves was in Boston, is a pejorative term for Native Americans once used in the same way soldiers apply crude nicknames to the enemy. The Indian wars are over. It's time to be more enlightened.