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Should the Redskins change their name?

September 24, 2009

There has been an effort for some time to get Washington to change the name of its football team from the Redskins to… something else. Anything else. It seems everyone has an opinion about the issue. Some people argue that not only is the name is in honor of Indians, but that Indians feel honored by the name. Others, Indian and non-Indian, hold steady with the assertion that the name is racist and profane, and should be changed. Suzan Harjo has been the figurehead of a lawsuit to try to force the team to change its name. She has been a strong public speaker on the issue, doing interviews and engaging with the public on the issue. Though it is an struggle she takes very seriously, she has managed to maintain a sense of humor (however sardonic) about the thing, as we see in her chat session with ESPN fans:

JJ: Ever think that instead of promoting equality, this fight of yours will sour people about Indians. People may think that Indians are kind of stupid for trying to change a mascot’s name.

Suzan Shown Harjo: The thoughts of those who could be soured over a bid for justice are of little interest to me — what are they going to do? Get mad and take away the western hemisphere?”

In the most recent development of this effort, the team of litigators has taken the case to the Supreme Court and asked it to step in.

And the struggle continues.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 25, 2009 2:28 pm

    DC's NFL team not only represents our nation's capital, it also represents a city that is 70%+ minority (including our President, Mayor, etc.). I don't understand how the term red-skin is not racist; much less something that honors a people. If you don't know any Native Americans, go to the Smithsonian Museum and ask anyone that works there about their thoughts on the matter. In my experience, I've never heard anyone say that they feel honored by the name. How is this different than "honoring" other ethnic groups by calling the team the Black-Faces or Slant-Eyes? Could you imagine the outrage if a team decided to change their name to something like that?I understand that most people grew up with name and therefore don’t break it down and think about what it means. I also understand the proud history of the franchise and about branding. But isn’t this the same city that changed the Bullets to the Wizards? Is this the biggest social issue that we are dealing with? Clearly not, but we can do better. Much better.

  2. September 27, 2009 11:13 am

    I grew up in the south. I had a confederate flag over my bed. I love the confedarate flag- around the 70s or 80s it became an issue for a lot of people because the flag represented, well, the confederacy and it's fight for the right to have slaves. We never thought about that aspect of it- we just loved the south and things southern. So, when the issue came to the fore… We stopped using the confederate flag. Pretty simple to me. I still like the flag – but that isnt really whats important. People are important. And Black people are far more important than my enjoyment of that aspect of my culture. change the mascot- it's just gross.

  3. September 28, 2009 1:48 am

    As a fan of the football team and a Quaker, I've struggled with their team name. Part of me feels it could be racist. But more of me feels like entirely too much is made of it. I asked some colleagues of mine at lunch what they thought. I asked how many of them even thought about the team name at all when watching or talking about the team. No one. At this point, folks just use it as a convenient designation for the team we all watch. I've not met a single person in my lifetime that ever used the team name in any racist sense. In fact nearly none of them has ever met a Native American. So the bottom line for me is, there are so many issues facing Native Americans that I put this largely toward the bottom. Not irrelevant by any stretch, but not important either. However, I would encourage anyone to take the opportunity to use this issue as a way to draw attention to the real plights at hand.

  4. October 5, 2009 8:42 pm

    Thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments! To get more regular updates on Native American/Native Alaskan issues, you can sign up for the Native American Legislative Update. Do this at where it says "Stay informed."

  5. December 1, 2009 4:58 am

    Saying the Washington redskins should change there name is like saying the patriots have to change there name too. Or the clevelnd browns there name because African-American people find that racist. So the redskins and half the other American pro teams all have to change there names. Pluse they are keeping the native American spirit alive because there are not many left only a million add some takes some but you get my point.

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