Native Leaders Celebrate a Victory as Washington Football Changes Mascot to the Redhawks

Native activists protest the Washington football team mascot outside Sports Authority Field on Oct. 28, 2013. (Confrontational Media)

By Staff Writer December 13
DISCLAIMER: This website is a parody and is not endorsed nor affiliated with the Washington Post. This website was created by Native advocates created to help us all imagine how easy and powerful changing the mascot could be. See our press release for more details.

This morning the Washington football team made a surprise announcement that the franchise is changing its controversial name from the Redskins to the Redhawks.

Today’s announcement under the heading “Go Washington Redhawks!” included a prototype of the new logo. District fans will recognize the iconic burgundy and gold, colors the team states they are keeping to “commemorate the enduring legacy of the Washington football team.” While the full change will not go into effect until the 2018 season, fans can already peruse and pre-order Redhawks apparel.

The immediate reaction from Native American leaders on Wednesday morning was one of celebration. Maryland resident and Piscataway scholar Dr. Gabrielle Tayac, whose tribe’s land the stadium currently sits on, was elated when reached by phone this morning. “Football is such a key symbol of civic pride. I feel a sense of relief and faith in my neighbors that now we don’t have to dehumanize people to celebrate our city. Piscataway people and our allied tribes were nearly exterminated on this landscape and we remain almost entirely invisible. To caricature the extreme violence we have survived was so entirely wrong.”

Dr. Adrienne Keene, author of the blog Native Appropriations and citizen of Cherokee Nation, was also found celebrating this morning via Twitter. When asked for comment, Keene stated, “This is just so incredibly amazing and important, and the result of generations of so many indigenous people fighting. Every time the Washington Football team was on television or in the news, we had to be reminded that we were seen as less than human. Now that the mascot has changed, it’s the first step towards us being seen as the contemporary, vibrant communities that we are, and not a disembodied head on the side of a football helmet.”

A team spokesperson stated that the franchise decided to change the name out of “respect for Native Americans and everything they have endured.” In the statement released today, team owner Dan Snyder adds, “It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect—the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.”

So far the reaction of fans has been mixed. Ian Washburn found out about the change like everyone else, while reading his Facebook news feed. Washburn was a third generation season ticket holder until in 2014 he stopped attending games at FedEx field in protest of the team’s former name.

“I have been a Washington football fan my entire life and, wow, I feel like I can once again be proud of my team. Redhawks is a name I can cheer for,” said Washburn. “There will always be those die-hard fans that will hate any change, but I think most of us are relieved. Other fans have woken up to find out their beloved team has moved to a different city. All that’s changed here is four letters.”

While the team’s official statement gives no word about the final impetus for the change, some are speculating it may be linked to the team’s desire for a new stadium. Both D.C. Council member David Grosso and Maryland Delegate David Moon publicly opposed taxpayer money going towards a stadium under the old name. The franchise has made it known they want a stadium with a downtown location with more amenities for fans.

The controversy over the team’s name reached national attention in the early 90s when veteran Native rights advocate Suzan Harjo, along with seven other Native plaintiffs, brought a lawsuit to cancel the registration of the team’s trademark. Since Harjo and others launched the campaign to end racist imagery in sports, over 2,000 schools, universities, and teams have switched their mascots.

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In 2016, The Washington Post came under fire from Native leaders after releasing a poll that claimed nine out of ten self-identified Native Americans did not find the name to be offensive. Native leaders questioned the poll’s methodology, stating that many white people often believe themselves to be Native and a poll of “self-identified” Native Americans is not an accurate representation of Indian Country.

In response to the 2016 poll, Keene put up a petition on her website, which has since gained over 6,900 signatures of Native people who oppose the name. Keene states, “56% of sample [of the Washington Post poll] didn’t have a tribal affiliation. I have never met a person who primarily identifies as Native and doesn’t have a tribal affiliation. That the whole point of being Native is being part of a tribe. Polling people who are not part of a tribe shows they just don’t understand Indian country.”

An independent poll conducted by California State University found that 67% of Native Americans do find the term “Redskins” offensive. The survey included 400 respondents who were enrolled in tribes and whose Native identity was confirmed by the University. Additionally many tribes have passed resolutions in support of a name change, including the Navajo Nation, Cherokee Nation, Choctaw Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, which combined represents over 800,000 Native Americans.

Tayac is one of the hundreds of thousands of Native Americans who see today as a victory for Native rights. “We no longer have to walk around on our own land with this representation that we are dead, that we are bounty, that we are trophies. We are people. We are still here.”

Read more coverage:

Official Name Change Announcement from the Washginton Redhawks

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