THUMBS UP for residents of “Redskins Drive” in Wiscasset for reconsidering the road’s name.

In Wiscasset, as in Washington, D.C., that name refers simply to a mascot, and residents with a long history of using it in that context can be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about.

But in both its literal meaning and its derivation — from the scalping of Native Americans by white settlers — it is an offensive term. It hasn’t always been treated the same as other racial epithets, but it should be, and it certainly shouldn’t be used on a road sign.

Most schools have stopped using that term as a school mascot, and pressure is mounting for the NFL team to do the same. This week, the Federal Communications Commission announced it is considering punishing broadcasters who use the term on air, just as they do for other offensive words.

With that progress, it makes no sense for Wiscasset to go in the other direction, even if it is just the name of a private road.

There is no shame in residents looking fondly back on their days as “Redskins” at Wiscasset High School. The debate over that name does nothing to sully their memories. It does not make them bigoted or racist.

But it is time to move on from that term.

THUMBS DOWN to a post-mortem analysis of Jovan Belcher that showed the former University of Maine football player likely had chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Belcher, who starred at Maine through the 2008 season, killed his girlfriend and then himself in December 2012.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease that causes dementia, aggression, confusion and depression. It can be caused by repeated head trauma, and researchers in Massachusetts have found CTE in the brains of 76 of the 79 former NFL players they have examined.

Among the former players posthumously diagnosed with CTE are Dave Duerson, who committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest, reportedly so his brain could be examined, and Mike Webster, the former Pittsburgh Steelers great who spent the final years of his life homeless.

This is not good news for the NFL. After years of ignoring the health problems of older players, the league finally agreed to a relatively small settlement last year that was ultimately rejected by a judge. Former players are now weighing a second proposal from the league.

The NFL also has tried to deflect criticism by banning some practices, such as helmet-to-helmet tackles.

But football is an inherently violent sport, and any attempt to change that will take away the very aspects that make it so popular. And there is evidence that CTE is caused not only by the huge collisions that make highlights, but also by the relatively lighter ones the occur multiple times on every play.

That is a reality the NFL does not want to confront, but it is important that players at all levels of football are aware of the risks. And as the bad news on CTE mounts, fans also must consider what role they play in supporting a sport that is clearly killing many of its participants.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.