The year is 2015 and people are still debating whether the term “Redskins” is an offensive name for the US capitol’s football team to have. Not only that, but even when people admit that, ok, it is a pretty offensive name, they still argue that both the name and logo should remain in use. The Redskins name controversy has been hotly discussed for years now, from Washington, DC now to the rest of the world. And now that the US patent office has cancelled the trademark on the logo, the debate is sure to rise up again. If you happen to fall into one of these discussions, there are some common and inaccurate pitfalls to avoid.
What not to say (because it’s factually wrong).
“They’ve always been the Redskins.”
Though news of teams changing their names or switching locations has slowed in the past few decades, it used to happen all the time. The Washington Redskins are not a pure, unchanging staple of DC-area culture and history. The team actually originated in Boston, Massachusetts and were known as the Braves. It wasn’t until quite a few years into their existence that the team moved to DC and were dubbed the Redskins. So it wouldn’t be betraying history to change the name, as many argue – it could even be continuing a historical trend, so to speak.
“Native Americans are proud of the representation.”
A few news articles and independent blogs have been written from Native perspectives arguing that the name Redskins should not be changed. While this is true it’s not to valid to generalize this fact one way or another, as there is debate from a variety of Native Americans all over the US who support, oppose or are indifferent towards the name. For every article about an individual or family taking pride in the Redskins, there’s sure to be another about groups protesting against it. One person cannot speak on behalf of millions.
“It would cost too much money to change everything.”
Anyone who has been to a professional football game can tell you that tickets don’t come cheap. There are tons of ways the Redskins make money, and merchandise is just one part of that. In fact, a name change (or at least the controversy surrounding it) might even help with sales, according to Peter Keating at ESPN and Peter Lawrence at Forbes. Rebranding could improve merchandise sales and ticket sales. Many colleges have changed their offensive Native American mascots and not seen any losses, and a professional team has even less of a risk because of their popularity and high-priced tickets.
“It’s not hurting anyone.”
A small amount of research on a sobering topic like the disproportionately high rates of suicide and self harm in many Native American communities will tell you that representation of Native Americans is not a trivial matter. Just like anyone, Native Americans’ ideas of themselves and their identity is influenced by how they’re viewed by the rest of society. The Aspen Institute released a study in which they found that these serious matters are especially present in Native American youth, who are the most impressionable age group. When society turns them into a stereotype, that can’t be – and isn’t – good for Native Americans’ identity.
While it’s important to have the facts straight about the Redskins’ draft picks, roster, and other season statistics, sounding like you know a thing or two about their name and logo controversy will be handy as well. Whichever side you’re on, you won’t make a strong argument if your point can be disproved with a quick Google search.