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What's Up Magazine

Redskins Huddle for Charity, Talk Team

May 17, 2013 08:25PM ● By Jake Russell

By Jake Russell
Photos by Jake Russell and Terri Russell

The events are held to honor the memory of Mickey Steele, a friend of former Redskins quarterback and Super Bowl XXVI MVP Mark Rypien, who passed away from leukemia.

The poker tournament required a $200 buy-in and included raffles and live and silent auctions for Redskins, Capitals, Ravens, and other sports memorabilia.

Tom O’Farrell, who runs the golf tournament, said that the idea for a poker tournament originated when their first golf tournament was rained out and those in attendance just started to play cards.

“We figured we’d kill two birds with one stone and make it easier and more attractive for (the Redskins) to come to the golf tournament and also have a chance to have a more low-key setting to get together and commiserate,” O’Farrell says.

“It also gives us a realization that life is short,” Rypien said. “We always don’t feel we have a real grip on our purpose here. And maybe Mickey’s purpose and what he did was to get people together and for a great cause to help kids.”

Proceeds from the poker tournament benefit the Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department. O’Farrell says that in the past, he has worked with the Wounded Warriors and helped local families in need of assistance. The golf tournament goes toward the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and the Mark Rypien Foundation, which was created to aid families suffering from childhood cancer.

Redskins legends in attendance at Thursday night’s event included Rypien, who emceed and participated in the poker tournament, Jeff Bostic, Charley Taylor, Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders, Billy Kilmer, Raleigh McKenzie, current Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, among many others.

Set on Wells Cove, the Fisherman’s Inn provides a relaxing setting for former players to reminisce about old times, talk about family, and even how the current Redskins are doing.

“That’s one of the beauties about coming back to one of these events,” Bostic says. “You get to converse with teammates and guys that played before you. Everybody likes to get together. Obviously we’re doing this for the Mark Rypien Foundation and the Redskins Charitable Organization but it’s good when players can actually get together and see what’s going on in each other’s lives."

“We’re a special franchise with 81 years of history right now,” Allen says. “For everyone to retell the stories over and over again, it’s special. And to have the fans right here reminding Billy Kilmer about certain games. That’s the uniqueness that you have when you’re with a flagship franchise.”

“The fans keep bringing me back,” Sanders says. “Mark, he’s a great guy. I played a lot of years with Mark. He’s a good guy. It’s just a beautiful scene. The people down here are enjoyable to be with. They just love to have a good time. And (it’s) for a good cause. I just enjoy coming down here and relaxing.”

Coming off of their first NFC East Championship in 13 years, high expectations abound at Redskins Park.

For Allen, re-signing 12 of their own free agents this offseason and seeing a veteran like DeAngelo Hall get cut and return for less money is a good sign of there the team is headed.

“Most of those players are very young players,” Allen says. “Hopefully their future’s bright and we wanted to retain them and they wanted to stay. If we can get better, which is your hope with young players, that they get better than they performed the previous year, I think it bodes well for us.”

Rypien was also encouraged by the draft that the Redskins executed in late April.

“I think they had an idea of what they wanted to do,” he says. “Whether we, as former players, or the community of fans agree or disagree, it’s too early to tell. I think they had some holes they needed to fill. Just from the understanding of what they wanted and what they went after, they got what they needed. I think that’s a big plus for us to know that they’re going to go in with that in mind. They filled some holes they needed to fill.”

A large topic of debate over the last several months has involved the team name and if it should be changed. The Redskins in attendance were not afraid to voice their opinion on the subject.

“In our society we’re never going to get 100 percent [approval],” Allen said. “I think there’s more media now. Twenty years ago there was the same claim on the trademark that went through the legal process. We’re proud to be Washington Redskins. What we represent is everything that’s great in America. I’m proud of every one of our players who have played for us and every coach who has ever coached for us and obviously the 30 million fans who have attended our games.”

Former Redskins center and member of the famed offensive line known as “The Hogs,” Jeff Bostic, did not hold back on the issue.

“Let me end it right here: ridiculous,” Bostic says. “Where in America does anybody get the right to tell you what you name an organization? Tell me one thing that this organization does that demeans, defaces, or devalues anybody from an Indian background anywhere.”

“How is it offensive?” Bostic added. “Well, what I would recommend them doing is buying the Redskins from Dan Snyder and changing the name because I see nothing that Dan Snyder and the Redskins organization has done that comes across, to me, as offensive. I would not be swayed by public opinion.”

“Let’s get down to the core. This is a game. Everybody we’re talking about is a sports organization. It’s a team. It’s a game. They’re nothing more than mascots. That’s all we’re trying to represent. Good bad and indifferent, the Redskins have had that identity since 1937 so it’s been there for a long time. Why don’t we change the name of the Indians? Why don’t we call them ‘The First People That Inhabited America’ and take the Indian out? And then we won’t have any conflict. How do we always go to the organization and tell them to change? Why don’t you tell the people to change?”

Bostic’s former teammate Ricky Sanders agrees with that sentiment.

“Man, people are crazy,” Sanders said. “You can’t change the Redskins. I saw that the other day. I was in Corpus Christi, Texas and I saw the USA Today where it’s talking about changing the Redskins name. I don’t think it’s really offending – I hope it’s not offending anybody. If it is, I’m sorry about that. It’s just a name.”

As a former Redskin who works with Native Americans, Rypien sees both sides of the story. He is not opposed to a name change being discussed.

“It’s a slippery slope,” Rypien said. “There are so many native friends of mine that do a lot of work at Northern Quest Casinos in Spokane. The Kalispel Tribe of Indians is one of our biggest donors and they’re very supportive. They understand I played for the Redskins but they also see what the Redskins represent is the essence of courage and strength and the ability to show young kids a different side. If it’s done in a way that’s detrimental to their culture and to the Native Americans in general, then we gotta look into that and honor and respect the way that they see it and do it in a way that everyone comes out of this feeling good about versus one side feeling they got the short end of it and the other side – the history of the great tradition that the Redskins have is also in line to those that feel that it maybe isn’t quite what they see.”

When asked if he thinks the Redskins should change their name and if the expects it to happen in the future, Rypien declined to answer but does believe the football team represented the name well.

“I couldn’t comment on it,” he said. “I just know when I did play for it, the tradition and the respect of the Redskins and what we did on the field and off the field in the community always represented the Redskins in the best manner.”