Redsk*ns

What the NFL Doesn’t Want You to Think About

Image by Ben Sutter / Sojourners. Logo used under critical commentary fair use protection.

“Redskins.” The name of Washington, D.C.’s football team is a racial slur, a racist epithet. The U.S. trademark office agrees; so does the dictionary. But more importantly, Native American people feel it. How important is that to the rest of us? That is the moral question for all of us: are we going to show respect for our nation’s original citizens? 

In an insightful column for the Chicago Tribune, Clarence Page compared NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to ban Clippers owner Donald Sterling “for life” for his private racist comments, with the decision yet to be made by the NFL and Washington’s owner to change a name deeply perceived as a public racist comment. “That’s the question at the heart in the name dispute. Who gets respect,” says Page.

Think about the name. Say it in your head or out loud in a private space. What comes to mind? Try to imagine why Native Americans feel the way they do. 

VIDEO: Proud To Be

"Proud To Be" is a compelling video by changethemascot.org that features a series of short clips and one-word descriptors to emphasize who Native Americans are—mother, Indian, Navajo, survivor, etc.—and what they are not (a mascot.) Like Peggy Flanagan’s article "Sacking the 'Redsk*ns'" (Sojourners, February 2014), the video advocates for a change in the Washington-based football team’s mascot because, as she so eloquently states, “I am not a mascot. My daughter is not a mascot. My people are not mascots. We are human beings. We are still here.”

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Sacking the 'Redsk*ns'

I'VE NEVER FELT as powerful and proud of my community as I was while walking down the middle of Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis on a cold evening in November with hundreds of other Native activists and allies. We were marching from the heart of the Minneapolis American Indian community to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to speak out against the Washington Redsk*ns mascot.

Hundreds of American Indians and allies rallied outside the Metrodome to demand that Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington professional football team, change the team’s name and mascot in spite of Snyder’s dissent. The owner’s unwavering commitment to keeping the Redsk*ns name became evident when earlier this year he stated, “We’ll never change the name. It’s simple. NEVER. You can use caps.”

Standing among supporters and friends, I looked on as the community joined together in drumming, dancing, and singing, with American Indian Movement co-founder Clyde Bellecourt serving as the rally’s emcee. Several local elected leaders addressed the crowd, including U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, and the mayor-elect of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, days after winning her election for mayor. The two joined an avalanche of elected leaders calling on Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the team’s name.

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