Some Richmonders may be ecstatic that the Washington Redskins are building a $10 million training facility behind the Science Museum of Virginia. But how will they deal with the team’s curse?
You can’t get away from it. People have long considered the Redskins’ name at a minimum racist and at worst a horrid reference to scalping. Suzan Shown Harjo, an advocate for Native American rights, says the term “redskin” dates back to when white bounty hunters stripped the skin away from Indians they were paid to kill. But some historians say there’s no concrete evidence of the scalping reference and that it’s merely a general term for Native Americans dating to the 1700s.
Last week, speakers at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington insisted that a name change is long overdue. Sportswriters have been scribbling for years that the name has such seriously bad karma that it’s brought a curse to the team — especially since marketing guru Daniel Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999 and refused to change the name.
Is it a curse? Just a few months before Snyder bought the team, the Redskins were one game removed from the Super Bowl. It took six years for them to make it back, advancing in the playoffs on a fumble return for a touchdown by superstar safety Sean Taylor. Two years later, Taylor was killed by burglars in his Miami home.
After another five-year hiatus from the playoffs, the Redskins made it back this year, only to see their bright, young quarterback, Robert Griffin III, crumple to the ground untouched with a serous knee injury (OK, he was already hurt).
There’s more where that came from: Joe Theismann’s career-ending leg snap on Nov. 18, 1985; first-round draft pick and subsequent flameout Heath Shuler; former Coach Norv Turner; and former U.S. Sen. George Allen’s infamous “macaca” comment (he’s the son of a former Redskins coach).
Could the bad karma follow the Redskins to Richmond? Consider the tree-cutting scandal at the training camp site — the 100 trees chopped down to much confusion and controversy. In 2005, Snyder came under intense fire for chopping down 130 mature trees in a scenic easement along his Maryland estate, to improve his view of the Potomac River.