For most football fans, the mention of the “Redskins” conjures images of Sammy Baugh, Joe Theismann, John Riggins, Robert Griffin IIII, among countless others football players. For Native Americans, “Redskins” evokes reminders of strife and near annihilation of their ancestors. After over 80 years of existence, is it time for the “Redskins” logo to be removed from the National Football League?
Not a Case of Racism against Native Americans
The Washington “Redskins” debate is that it is not a matter of racism against Native Americans. Daniel Snyder, the owner of the team, or the team’s fan base has not demonstrated any evidence of intentional anti-Native American action. The debate is about an antiquated term being used as a team nickname to refer to Native Americans.
Daniel Snyder, also a life-long Washington fan, did echo the feeling of many Washington fans and their beloved team. He discussed his memories of the fight song “Hail to the Redskins” while attending games with his father as a child. Snyder also related how, in 1971, Coach George Allen worked with the Red Cloud Athletic Fund to design the current helmet logo. These sentiments support Snyder’s continued resistance to changing the team’s logo.
Is “Redskins” Offensive?
According to James Fenelon of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, his 1995 survey showed that nearly two-thirds of verifiable Native American (through activity in a Native American Tribe) stated that the term “Redskin” is racist.
There was another survey conducted in 2004 by the National Anneberg Election Survey, which stated that most American Indians found “Redskins” acceptable, with only 9% responding that the term was “offensive”. Questions regarding this survey, such as not including Native Americans in Alaska and not verifying the respondents, have cast doubt on these results.
As Guy Gugliotta pointed out in “A Linguist’s Alternative History of ‘Redskin’ “, the historical usage of the term is varied, as some evidence suggests that the term may have come from Native American or French usage. Ultimately, the modern day use of the term “Redskin” comes from the derogatory use of the term in movies from the 1930s – 1940s.
Ultimately, while unintended, it is hard to argue that “Redskin” term is not racially offensive.
What does Snyder and the NFL do?
After 80 years of use and countless attempts, serious pressure from the Native American community, journalists, and politicians is mounting to change team name. Coupled with the recent loss of the logo patent, Snyder and the NFL are beginning to fight an uphill battle.
As much as the memories and traditions are nice, they do not compare to images of the tragedies committed against the Native Americans in U.S. history. This notion cannot be changed with words, but actions – specifically, changing the team nickname and logo.