In a two-minute long commercial that ran during the NBA Finals this summer, the National Congress of American Indians runs through the list of names that Native Americans are proud to be referred to as, including “indians,” “patriots,” “survivors” and “spiritualists.”
The last scene of the commercial has the narrator read, “Native Americans call themselves many things. The one thing they don’t…” before fading to a picture of the Washington Redskins helmet, indicating their support for the movement to change the Redskins’ name.
It’s a nice, powerful message from a group with a growing number of supporters around the country. Except there’s one thing wrong with the commercial.
It’s a lie.
In a story published by ESPN’s Outside the Lines last September, a Navajo member in Arizona spoke to the ESPN reporter regarding her stance against the use of the term Redskins. However, the reporter pressed her about Red Mesa High School, a high school in Arizona on Navajo land that goes by the name Redskins, and even uses the same logo that she calls offensive.
Amanda Blackhorse, the Navajo advocate being interviewed by ESPN, defended Red Mesa High School by saying that they were using the term in a positive way.
So why aren’t the Washington Redskins doing the same? Why is their way negative but Red Mesa’s way positive?
Organizations all over the country are taking a stand against the Redskins because of their use of the term, including The Kansas City Star. The newspaper refuses to use the name. However, their refusal directly contradicts their beliefs to the team they primarily cover, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Just like the Redskins, the Chiefs’ name is one that refers to Native Americans. Kansas City fans, similarly to Washington fans, often dress up in mock Native American garments to express their fandom and pride for the team. Why doesn’t The Star stop using the Chiefs’ monicker? Why arbitrarily stop using the term Redskins but allow the term that its hometown team uses?
The latest development in this ongoing controversy, according to the Star Tribune, is that the University of Minnesota, which is hosting the home games for the Minnesota Vikings this season, wants to prevent the Vikings from using the Redskins’ name in “promotional and game date materials” in protest of the usage of the term. The basis for their protest comes following a letter the owner received from U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minnesota.
Congress has been under intense scrutiny from Native American groups to force their hand and disallow the use of the name Redskins by Daniel Snyder, the Washington Redskins owner. But ultimately, these groups are guilty of the crime they accuse Snyder and Co. of committing. There is also little backlash surrounding other teams with Native American names, including the Chiefs, Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves.
The Washington franchise has used the name since 1932 and nobody has expressed any major concern surrounding the term until recently. It’s time to stop the hypocrisy and baseless protests surrounding the usage of the term Redskins.
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