By Courtland Milloy
In many ways, Chief Zee's travails mirror those of the team, now 2-4 after Sunday's loss to Kansas City. But while watching fiascos on a football field may be masochistic, watching Zee calcify into some cigar store Indian on the sidelines is downright sickening.
Those who want to keep the team's racist name are quick to say it's honorific, a term of endearment that shows respect for Native Americans. And yet, inadvertently though it may be, Chief Zee stands as pitiful proof to the contrary. How can supporters of the name claim to care about indigenous peoples when they care so little for the Indian caricature of their own making?
He's sporting a Plains-style headdress, which only revered chiefs are supposed to wear. His appearance doesn't match the Washington DC location or the Redskins logo. It's as if the Redskins are saying all Indians fit the Plains Indian stereotype. As if they're all the same.
So the Redskins are "honoring" Indians with a stereotypical mascot who (probably) isn't an Indian and is too old to walk. As Milloy notes, he's a relic of the past--the equivalent of a cigar-store Indian. He's an animated trophy--the embodiment of the defeated chiefs after the Indian Wars. He serves the same function as a Geronimo or a bear in a parade, reminding us how great we were to tame the wild Indians.
The Redskins could honor Indians by actually honoring Indians. For instance, by introducing an Indian college student at each game and giving him or her a scholarship. But Chief Zee is an honor only in the feeble minds of Redskins supporters. As an Indian symbol, he's a joke.
For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.