Redskins Name: Update

It’s been a long time coming, and we’re still not quite there. Still, much needs to be said about the current National Football League season. Despite winners and losers, the 2013-2014 NFL season is proving to be one of greatest seasons in history. This has nothing to do with any of the games; it has to do with the increasing national momentum to bring a name change to the Washington Redskins. “It’s only a matter of time,” my brother said as we were watching football and discussing the name change.

Is change going to come, and when? The team’s Indian mascot and name is becoming increasingly unwelcomed by many. Yet, Redskins owner Dan Snyder clings to arguments of tradition and honoring. When the team honored Navajo Code Talkers during the NFL’s Salute to Service Month and Native American Heritage Month last November, the ceremony left a stench of a “Redskins publicity stunt” in the air as the elderly Navajo servicemen stood draped in Redskins apparel.  Maybe Snyder knows his ship is sinking and not because of the 3-13 season.

By E. Stutzman, pub at

By E. Stutzman, pub at

What is most confusing about Snyder’s adamant position is his inability to consider the real history of the term “redskins.” The franchise argues that the name is used to honor William “Lone Star” Dietz, coach of the 1933 and 1934 Boston Redskins and debatable member of the Sioux Nation. Yet, one can only be left scratching his head at this defense. Are we really supposed to believe that a derogatory term for Native Americans is honoring the team’s inaugural coach? This would never fly with any ethnic group.

Times were different then. The dominant culture could get away with freely using derogatory terms like “redskins.” I accept that… it never made it right. Native Americans were even more invisible during those times than we are now. Today, times have changed – Native Americans are part of the conversation.

Spearheaded by the Oneida Nation, the “Change the Mascot” campaign has gained national attention by airing radio ads during pro football broadcasts and asking fans everywhere to support a Washington name change. The Oneida are not alone in their effort. After one look on the Supporters of Change page, it would seem that the entirety of Native America are with the Oneida. Public Policy Polling would suggest otherwise, putting forth results that show even the majority of Native Americans are okay with the “Redskins” name.

Yet, a host of non-Native organizations, news/sports reporters, elected officials, religious leaders and media outlets also stand behind the call for a name change in Washington. Some, like top NFL writer Peter King, are even going as far as refusing to use the name in print and publication any longer. I would not be surprised if these collective efforts, big and small, by a nation, Native and non-Native, bring about the desired change in Washington.

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