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National Columnist

Only one right side to Redskins debate, and history will remember

Team owner Dan Snyder is adamant about not changing the Redskins name. (USATSI)
Team owner Dan Snyder is adamant about not changing the Redskins name. (USATSI)

History is a mother------, because history doesn't forget. Get on the wrong side of an issue, as Dan Snyder and his supporters have done, and history will remember. It's ruthless like that. Be wrong about something as important as the racist nickname of the Washington Redskins, and history will hammer you forever.

So that's where we are. Understand those ground rules and make your decision. Dan Snyder made his: The Redskins will stay the Redskins as long as he's owning the team, so that's that. Dan Snyder, presumably a smart man to get where he has gotten, will remain stupid on this topic. His choice.

What's yours?

History remembers the racists from the 1950s who thought whites shouldn't have to associate with blacks. Important men with names we know -- Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, George Wallace, more -- have gone down in history as being on the wrong side of that argument. Feel sorry for them? For racists like Thurmond and Helms and Wallace? Oh, hell no. They made their bed. Sleep in it, racists. Sleep in it for eternity.

History doesn't play around.

Art Monk and Darrell Green understand. Maybe they're simply being smart. Or maybe, probably, they're showing compassion to an entire race of people, almost all of whom Monk and Green will never meet. Maybe they realize they cannot comprehend what it must be like to be a Native American in this country, a country that cheated and manhandled Native Americans in 1830 when we decided to take what was theirs. Maybe Monk and Green are uncomfortable that any professional sports franchise, much less the NFL team in our nation's capital, would tolerate a nickname as hurtful, as blatantly racist, as "Redskins."

CBSSports.com colleague Mike Freeman was brilliant in May when he wrote on this topic. What about the Washington N-words, he asked. Does that hypothetical make this any clearer?

And the answer to that, of course, is no. It does not make it clearer. Not to Dan Snyder, who has doubled down on stupid -- as smart people often do once they've publicly committed themselves to a stupid position -- by insisting the Redskins will never change their nickname.

"It's that simple," Snyder said in May. "NEVER -- you can use caps."

History also will use all capital letters, RACIST OWNER DAN SNYDER.

How will history remember us? If we're not famous, history might not remember us at all. Lots of people in the 1950s were racist toward black people, but we don't know who they are today. That was 60 years ago, and those were regular folks -- mechanics and farmers and teachers and sportswriters -- and history doesn't eulogize regular folks, no matter how hatefully racist.

But those people, the ones still alive today, know what history would say about them. History would call them "racists." Look yourself in the mirror, old-timer. Remember those days? When you were a racist? You know what you thought. You know who you are.

That's what this Redskins thing is. It's a line in the sand. Get on the right side, or keep quiet about it. Those are the best two options, because the day is coming when the word "Redskins" is eradicated from the NFL. Hate that all you want, make fun of people like me for being politically correct -- sometimes politically correct is morally correct; ever think of that? -- but understand the day is coming. The Redskins might stay in Washington forever, but they won't stay the Redskins forever. It's absurd that they've stayed the Redskins this long.

When two of the greatest Redskins of all time, Monk and Green, say the team should consider changing its name ... you know the day is coming. Again, Monk and Green could be that compassionate. Or they could just be that smart. They know history will remember the famous people, people like Dan Snyder -- and Art Monk and Darrell Green -- and they'll be damned if they're going to be remembered on the wrong side of this one.

Whatever their motivation, they're on the right side. And to understand why Monk and Green's side is the right one, try compassion. Try empathy. This isn't about you, unless you were born Native American. If you weren't, be grateful. That people, that race, has had it brutally hard in this country -- their country, before my ancestors took it from them -- for centuries.

Maybe you don't think "Redskins" is offensive. Maybe you're not qualified to make that call.

Plenty of Native Americans are offended by it, and you know what? That's good enough for me. Their point of view on this topic is a lot more valid than mine. Besides, the word "Redskins" is that ludicrous. Redskins? Really? Some people say it's a way to "honor" Native American heritage, but some people dress up in blackface for Halloween. Some people have no idea.

It's pretty clear how racist "Redskins" is. It's pretty clear how wrong Dan Snyder is. It's pretty clear which direction this is going.

When Washington's NFL franchise is forced to change its nickname, history will remember who fought for "Redskins."

Choose wisely.

Or keep quiet.

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