Though the Washington franchise has now entered a new era with the former name of the team soon-to-be retired, an entire 83-year history here remains.
Great players and teams alike still live on in the memory of many, even if the name they played under is no longer. However, figuring out how to celebrate the past that is intertwined with a moniker that has negative connotations can be tricky. It's something former Washington player and current ESPN980 host Doc Walker has been contemplating in the wake of recent news.
Walker wants to continue to honor the history of success of the franchise, while also understanding why the name change needed to happen. For him, it's all about separating the name from everything else Washington has achieved.
“It’s kind of like an emotional separation. I’ve said I do not look at the logo and look at it and think that it’s a swastika. I’m not sitting here about to burn all my gear," Walker said on Doc and Galdi. “But I do have to establish, take a deep dive as to how I’m going to represent it and what’s going to be represented by it.”
Walker's reflection includes understanding the difference is how the name was perceived back when he played in the 80s compared to how it is viewed today. Thirty years ago surely part of the population found it offensive, but Walker believes that the negative connotations and opinions were lesser-known.
Therefore, he still looks to the past with positivity, because there was no ill-intent by which he celebrated the name and the team.
“I’m not trashing my past, and the honor, because we didn’t go about it in a derogatory sense," Walker said. "I wasn’t trying to be a jerk.”
“If I had known that was hateful in the 80s, I never would have represented it," Walker said. "That was not the case, it was a level of pride and it was something that you were so honored to embrace."
Even with that mindset, Walker did admit that he made mistakes by not seeking out more information and alternative views about the name. He's since made an effort to learn more about what problems some have with the moniker, and it made him understand why change was requested.
“It was also some ignorance because I never went out of my way to find out what Native Americans thought. I did ask around and when I heard it was negative I immediately dropped it," Walker said. "I had just one conversation, that’s all I needed. It didn’t matter."
The reason Walker has still been able to celebrate the past while seeing all sides of the argument stems from the same mentality he is trying to put forward now. His fondness of the history of the Washington franchise isn't unilaterally connected to the name, but rather the memories that were created by teams and players. Even without the focus of the name, there was so much to celebrate over the years.
"It didn’t take away the Burgundy and Gold… the Hogs, the Hogettes, all these things that went on that were different," Walker said. "We were still able to be in love with the colors, Hoggettes. But it didn’t kill us.”
With the name now on its way out, Walker believes the same can be done in the future. There is no reason to look down at the incredible moments that have taken place over the years and the players who have come through the franchise. They can be separated from the name, and still celebrated and honored.
However, he does admit that it will be a challenge. The current landscape and negative aura around the name will not go away, even when looking at the past. That leaves Walker wondering how exactly history will be remembered in Washington.
“This right now. This is like, how do we go from this point forward with our past, our stuff. What do you treat it like?" Walker said. “That to me has to be addressed. It’s going to take time.”
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