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The Washington Redskins Consider Changing Names as Sponsors Turn Up the Heat

BY: Isabella Gattuso

The Washington Redskins, who have been in existence since 1933, has faced a long and controversial history. Presumably after the rekindling of the Black Lives Matter’s movement for racial equality, several sponsors have pushed for the Redskins to change their name to something more sensitive to the plight of Native Americans in the U.S.

Originally, the football’s team name was the Boston Braves (of course, being centered in Boston). The initial story is that the owner of the team, George P. Marshall, changed the name to honor Sioux coach William “Lone Star” Dietz and other Native American team members.  However, an Associated Press article written in 1933 found an interview in which Marshall claimed he only changed the name to avoid having the same name as the Washington DC’s baseball team. This was also during a time when anti-native language and stereotypes were prevalent: thirty years before, Webster’s dictionary had defined the word “Redskin” as “often contemptuous. In the same decade, a movie starring Spencer Tracy and Robert Young had a line where one colonist is encouraged to hunt a Native American by one follow venturer asking “Get a redskin for me, won’t you?”

The opposition to the name has been prevalent for years but has been revitalized by the fresh calls for action by the recent protests in major cities for the Black Lives Matter movement. Most major sponsors of the team have released positive statements for a name change after varying groups and shareholders threatened to “terminate its public and business relationships” if the franchises refused to acknowledge any name. Eighty shareholders representing almost $602B dollars in assets sent letters to FedEx, who sponsors the Redskin’s field; Nike, who provides the team’s uniforms; and PepsiCo, who provides refreshments for the stadium. The letter condemned the usage of “Indian sports references” and argues most organizations for the rights of Native Americans are against the name. Dan Snyder, the current coach for the team has “vowed he will never change the name of the team”.

Supporters of the team name often bring up a poll from the Washington Post which claims that 9/10 of Native Americans aren’t offended by the Redskin’s name; therefore, it’s justified that the team keep a traditional name because no one gets hurt. Unfortunately, details from that poll show a much darker side. One man said claimed he couldn’t be offended because he felt the community wasn’t strong enough to fight it. Another woman felt that she couldn’t be offended by the name because the slurs had become normalized for her. Other leaders against the name, such as Harjo, expressed that he was dissatisfied with the way the poll was surveyed. Whether fair or not, the poll is simply a reflection of the ineffectiveness and poor treatment of the Native Americans, which in a way should encourage leaders to act and do what they can to stop perpetual stereotyping, starting with the name change.

Starting on July 3rd, the Redskins have officially begun a review to determine whether they would change the name or not, and on July 12, NFL correspondent for the Sports Business Journal announced on Twitter the Redskins are planning to announce their new name change Monday, July 13th. There’s a long way to go from true justice for the inadequate treatment of the Native Americans starting from the day Europeans stepped on the earth with a desire to expand. However, the crackdown on one of the most adamant teams to change implies everyday people are willing to do what they can to diminish America’s legacy of overpowering expansionism.

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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