Redskin name change coming?
By Karl Spain
Who is this Aris Mardirossian and why has he registered the name; Washington Bravehearts?
It’s an excellent question actually, and as the co-author of a book about Aris (God I Trust, America I Love), and a close friend for over 30 years, I think the answer is as interesting as the controversy over the team name. Let me start by reassuring all the loyal burgundy and gold fans that Aris himself is a big Redskin fan, he personally has taken me to many home games, where he cheered as loudly for the team as anyone born right here in Washington.
But Aris wasn’t born right here in Washington, in fact, he is not only an immigrant, he is an Armenian immigrant. To many people, who don’t understand Armenia’s history of genocide before, during, and after WWI, the whole continuing interest in this story over the team name may sound like a tempest in a teapot, but, to the native American Indians, the African Americans, the Armenians, the Jews and many other minority populations around the world and here in the U.S. that were singled out by the majority for bigotry; hatred, discrimination and even extermination, the slurs that accompany those campaigns are as sensitive a topic as are the people — that still deny these things happened.
Changing the name isn’t about whether the fans like the current name; it’s about whether or not that discriminated against minority — feels honored by it, which clearly, many of them do not. Just in case, readers are thinking of Mel Gibson in the movie version of Braveheart as an inspiration for this name, the truth is considerably more interesting.
The inspiration for the new name is Marie Yellow Horse Brave Heart, Ph.D., a Native American Indian woman, teaching at Columbia University, where she is a Research Associate Professor and Director of Native American and Disparities Research at the Center for Rural and Community Behavioral Health.
Aris choose her as his inspiration because of her work in indigenous collective trauma, grief and loss; cross-cultural mental health; historical trauma, healing intervention and mental health in indigenous populations; psychotherapy; substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders in indigenous populations.
In other words, she wrote the book on name calling, racial slurs and the implied derogatory slight they carry, proving they do have immensely negative power, power to shape public opinion, a power that filters down to influence even how ordinary people treat each other, every single day. When Aris arrived in the 1960’s, to attend the University of Maryland, (where he went on to get an advanced engineering degree) he didn’t speak a word of English. He understands first hand, what it’s like to be a minority in this country. But his journey wasn’t to be a tragic one; instead, it was a beginning that took him from dishwasher at the local Shakey’s Pizza parlor, to one of the world’s most respected inventors and thinkers.
Today, through the miracle of faith and the great American experiment with civil rights, self-governance and free enterprise, he sits at the center of a sprawling web of companies, inventions and civic programs that touch virtually every single human on the planet.
By way of inventions, you probably used one of his today, namely texting. Aris not only holds the patents on texting, he also holds over 50 other patents and patent pending’s ranging from a balloon launched telecommunications system for cities suffering a natural disaster, to a patent on how brain waves can be read and deciphered at a distance.
Of course, Aris does own a home next to Danny Snyder on River Road in Potomac Maryland, but they don’t know each other. And although Mr. Snyder doesn’t remember it, he did meet Aris, once. One day while Aris’s house was being remodeled before he moved in, Mr. Snyder came over to take a look around and see what was being done, as any nosy neighbor would. Aris was there, eating lunch with the stone masons (something he did almost everyday with them), but he was dressed casually, as is also his habit, and Mr. Snyder, not knowing he was the owner, peppered him with questions about the owner. Aris got a big kick out of that, and blending in with the masons, never let on that he was the owner himself.
Bulletproof vest for police officers? Aris has a foundation that buys them. Scholarships for engineering students? He provides them. In hundreds of ways great and small, over the years, Aris has spent almost as much time trying to fix the things he thinks are wrong with society as he has making money off of society, which of course, he has also done very well at. If the team does decide to adopt the Braveheart moniker, and any compensation does flow Aris’s way, all of it will flow to his charitable foundation that supports education.
This isn’t a gimmick on Aris’s part. He understands that the same U.S government that gave him a chance, that made the amazing life he has lead possible, broke over 30,000 treaties with the native American Indians, and stole, most of the North American land mass from them. That happened and we aren’t going to give it back. Today, the Native Americans suffer badly from poverty; high alcoholism rates, poor education levels and blatant discrimination, and not just in the states where they still reside on reservations.
The Washington Bravehearts name is a good one. It sends a positive signal, while honoring the football team’s past, but without the stigma associated with the shameful history of the majority treatment of this minority, which, while understandably hard and uncomfortable for the majority to look at, simply can’t be ignored.