Native American activists have sought since the 1980s to force pro football’s Washington Redskins to change the name of their team, citing its offensive nature. Even President Obama got into the debate, telling the AP last Friday, “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team–even if it had a storied history–that was offending a sizable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
The movement is just the latest in a decades-long effort to rename sports teams, or get rid of mascots, that some Native Americans find offensive. The University of Illinois was threatened with sanctions over Chief Illiniwek, its former mascot. The university retired the chief in 2007. Stanford University changed their team name from “Indians” to “Cardinal.” Miami of Ohio teams, formerly known as the Redskins, are now the “Redhawks.”
But how offensive do people — including Native Americans — find the nickname “Redskins”? Wikipedia covers the controversy and reports on some polls that have been conducted:
Some consider the namesake and logo of the Washington Redskins to be racist. However, a 2013 USA Today poll found widespread support for the Redskins name. The poll indicated that 79 percent of Americans believed that the Redskins should keep their name. There have been movements by certain groups to change the name, but the attempts have been unsuccessful. Others make the case in defense that the Redskins name is intended to honor the bravery and dignity of American Indians and that, regardless of past usage, the word redskins today refers to the football team. Notwithstanding the protests of activists, a 2002 poll commissioned by Sports Illustrated found that 75% of those American Indians surveyed had no objection to the Redskins name.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder is adamant that there will be no name change. In a letter to season ticket holders, Snyder wrote:
“I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn,” Synder wrote in a letter to season ticket holders. “But we cannot ignore our 81 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years, the team name ‘Redskins’ continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.”
We’ve heard from the owner, the president of the United States, sportscasters, pundits and commentators. Now it’s your turn to be heard. Should the Washington Redskins change their name? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. If you haven’t registered to comment, please take a few seconds to do so.