Milstead thinks it’s time for ‘Skins to change

DSU head football coach Rod Milstead, a Washington, D.C. native, started 11 games for the Redskins in 1998. (File photo)

DOVER — When Rod Milstead signed with the Redskins in 1998, he couldn’t have imagined anything better.

The former Delaware State offensive lineman was born in Washington, D.C.

So actually getting to play for the NFL team he’d always loved was pretty cool.

“It was a big dream of mine to be able to come home, actually live in my house, play for my hometown team and provide my family the opportunity to get season tickets,” said Milstead. “At that time, it was impossible to get them.”

Rod Milstead

The last thing Milstead was thinking about in those days was whether the Redskins’ mascot was racist or not.

But, by the time Washington announced Monday that it would be changing its name, Milstead thinks it’s definitely the right thing to do.

The 50-year-old Milstead, who’s now DSU’s head coach, started 11 games for Washington in ‘98. He said he eventually had more conversations with friends of Native American heritage about the mascot while he was there.

“It really started to hit home to me that the name should change,” said Milstead. “The history will always be there — the Super Bowls will always be there. But it was time.

“If you go back and you look at some of the Negro League teams, some of those names were offensive. We don’t see those names now. Those names are gone. … We wouldn’t want to have a team called the ‘Delaware Negroes.’ People of color would find that offensive. You put a dark-skinned head up on the side of a helmet, we would find that offensive.

“Or the ‘Delaware Caucasians,’” he added. “You put a white face on the side of a helmet, white people would find that offensive. When you look at the whole picture, you say, ‘You now what? I know it’s been that way for years and we accepted it. But sometimes you’ve got to look at it and say, morally, it’s wrong.’”

Dover’s Bruce Morris is another local person who used to be ambivalent toward the Redskins mascot. The well-known local Native American dancer said it just didn’t seem worth the trouble of trying to get it changed.

Morris said he also believed the man who first came up with the nickname in the 1930s meant it as a sign of respect.

“But I can understand how people from other tribes feel about it,” he said. “It just gets to be an insult.”

More than the mascot name, Morris said he’s always been more offended by the chants and disrespectful dancing that often accompany the nickname. He said the Atlanta Braves’ ‘Tomahawk Chop’ has always bothered him.

“When we’re dancing and we’re chanting, we’re actually praying,” said Morris. “They don’t understand that. It makes us feel that our chanting is made fun of.”

Both Milstead and Morris said they hope that eventually all racially insensitive mascots will eventually be done away with. Besides the Braves, baseball also has the Cleveland Indians.

There are also a number of college and high school Native American mascots. Locally, Indian River High’s sports teams are still known as the Indians while Conrad changed its nickname from Redskins to Red Wolves a few years ago.

Of course, now that Washington has decided to change its mascot, the questions will turn toward what it’s new nickname should be.

Personally, Milstead said he likes either Red Wolves or Red Tails.

“It’s probably good for the organization,” he said. “They’ve been down for a few years. A fresh start with a new name. … they’ll set the record for whatever the new name is going to be.”