Kendal Thompson is an undrafted wide receiver from the University of Utah who is attempting to make the roster of the Washington Redskins. Kendal Thompson is Native American. The Washington Post published a story yesterday about Thompson, his ancestry, his football background and his struggles to make an NFL roster. It is similar to an earlier story on Thompson published by ESPN.
It is a good story and is recommended reading. In particular, the authors avoid a obvious and hackneyed angle on Thompson’s story which would be unfortunate. Neither of the articles mention anything regarding the effect Thompson’s signing and potential addition to the roster have on the perception of the “Redskins” nickname. Also, for his part Thompson seemingly does not dwell on this angle either, claiming for him the nickname really isn’t a big deal and the controversy surrounding it had no effect whatsoever on his signing or his attempt to make the team.
But the possibility of misreading his presence and turning it into something tawdry is there. When a poll was released which said 9 out of 10 Native Americans had no issue with the “Redskins” nickname supporters of the name declared this was proof it was not racist and therefore should not be changed. Now, in the case of Thompson, there is an actual Native American on the team who has no problem with the nickname. It must be okay.
Furthermore, in a quote Thompson says his signing by the Redskins is a little “ironic”. No, it’s not and it’s important to understand why not. Thompson’s signing being “ironic” indicates it is unexpected and opposite to what should be expected. For one, Thompson’s signing being “ironic” because of his Native American ancestry would make the signing racist. Second, if the signing is “ironic” then this does make the nickname non-inflammatory and acceptable.
The concern herein is preemptive. These stories do not take that leap and run with that angle. To this point it does not appear others have, but others could. The means are contained within the articles. But don’t. Kendal Thompson’s story is a good one and does not deserve to be ruined by cheap politics.