Tag Archives: Redskins

Chicago Blackhawks Can Win On A Bigger Stage By Changing Their Mascot

Sticks and stones...

Sticks and stones…

Saw this piece over at the blog, Racialicious and since I have written on this issue regarding the Washington Redskins I thought it brought a fresh perspective to the matter as relates to Native American macots in general:

As a white youth growing up playing ice hockey in the 1960s, in a Chicago suburb, I fell in love with the Chicago Blackhawks. I watched Hawks games on T.V., and during the intermissions between the periods, I retired to the kitchen (and its smooth, slick tile floor) to shoot my plastic puck at the cabinets. For the kitchen shootouts, I channeled my all-time favorite, the always-helmeted Stan Mikita, or on occasion, Bobby Hull. Born just after the team’s 1961 Stanley Cup championship, I anticipated – without too much patience – the next championship, and suffered through the team’s two failed Stanley Cup appearances in the early seventies.

But between those years and the team’s next championships in 2010 and now 2013, my Native American friends encouraged me to reflect more deeply on the way symbols like the team’s own “Chief Black Hawk” distorted their identities, particularly in the imaginations of white Americans. Ultimately, in graduate school at the University of Illinois-Champaign, I critiqued my school’s infamous mascot, Chief Illiniwek, and my friend Richard King and I went on to edit Team Spirits: The Native American Mascot Controversy, a 2001 collection of essays giving voice to how Native Americans feel about many of these manifestations of the power of non-Indian, mostly white institutions and people to (re)represent, (re)name, and (re)contextualize Native peoples for white purposes.

In his foreword for the book, renowned scholar Vine Deloria Jr. of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation wrote:

With diehard refusal to change the names and logos of sports teams we always hear the justification that the name is being used to ‘honor’ us. This tortured reasoning makes its proponents look absurd. Obviously if garish costumes, demeaning cheers, and crude logos are the essence of honor, then the various sports halls of fame need to perform drastic surgery on the busts and plaques of their honorees. The excuse, being lame, must conceal something more profound, which cannot or will not be articulated by those people ‘honoring’ us.

Maybe the most vivid contemporary example, the Washington R*dskins, is addressed by Suzan Shown Harjo of the Cheyenne and Holdulgee Muscogee tribes, the plaintiff in the case against the franchise. The plaintiffs’ legal strategy turns on U.S. trademark law and its prohibition against trademarking racial epitaphs, and as such, they seek merely to deny the Washington R*dskins team the right to own the trademark of own name and image. Harjo, writing in Team Spirits, acknowledges that the case may take a long while to play out in federal court, but she asserts:

Three things are certain at this time … The Native American position is rock solid and will not change. The circle of non-Native supporter is wider, stronger, and more diverse. The time has come to consign “Redskins” to the history books and museums.” 

What do you think?

Increasingly uncomfortable rooting for a team relying on Native American imagery to popularize its identity, my passion for the team has now dimmed. Somewhat ambivalent still, I was jealous of the team’s many supporters reveling in and celebrating the 2010 championship. And as I share this with you, Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews have just led the Hawks yet again to a Stanley Cup championship. Persuaded by years of inquiry into the problematic history of how athletic teams have too often resorted to Native American imagery to convey their identities, I will let me many friends who are Blackhawk fans celebrate without me.

Man I wish people would understand the power of these names and the inherent insult built in considering how real Native Americans were treated in American history. But alas,  many will see this as criticism of their teams and will ignore it. But it is about so much more than sports.

Read the rest of the very thought-provoking essay here.

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NFL Is On The Wrong Side of History On This One

Lame justifications.

Lame justifications.

Come on Roger Goodell. Don’t be on the wrong side of history.

After receiving a letter from 10 members of Congress on May 13 urging him to remove the “racial, derogatory slur” from the name of one of his league’s marquee franchises, Goodell responded in a letter dated June 5 that was posted online by Indian Country Today Media Network on Tuesday. Goodell defended the moniker by citing the team’s rationale for choosing it in 1933 as well as it’s current meaning among fans.

“The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context,” Goodell wrote. “For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

He and others need to realize that it doesn’t matter what you try to pretty up the slur to mean, it is still a slur. And that it is such a public slur on an ethnic group that has already been horribly treated in this country makes it even worse. Can you imagine a team named with the “n-word”? Well to some native americans this is similar. Seems to me if there is ANY hurt involved in the name why use it? There are so many choices in the world that are harmless and not insulting.

Be not mistaken. This is about money and branding. And the cost involved in having to change the name and all the merchandising. But it would not be unprecedented. In fact another Washington team changed its name. The NBA franchise, The Washington Bullets, in response to concern that the name celebrated gun violence in a city racked with such violence, changed its name to the Washington Wizards. And the world did not end. Maybe some wizards were insulted somewhere. But otherwise, no big deal.

Here is a link to the full article and the great responses to Goodell’s statement.

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Redskins Name An Insult To Native Americans

Why is this ok?

I have been saying for years that Washington, D.C.’s football team needs to change its team macot name, “Redskins,” to something that is not a direct slur for Native Americans. Unfortunately, not enough people get worked up over this slur being used every football game in a public way and over the air. But I am glad to see that a couple of papers have weighed in on the issue. This is from an article from Yahoo Sports:

There’s long been arguments about the political correctness of the Washington Redskins’ nickname — some feel that it is a pejorative term, and many Native Americans find it offensive. The “Redskins” nickname was given to the team in 1933 by then-owner George Preston Marshall, supposedly in recognition of head coach Lone Star Dietz, who may have been part Sioux. That Marshall was a known and avowed racist who greatly opposed the integration of the NFL doesn’t do a lot for the argument that the team’s nickname is an innocent conceit.

According to the article, The Kansas City Star has long since stopped referencing the team’s name in its reports, but now a local D.C. paper has also changed their policy:

The Washington City Paper has decided to use the term “Pigskins” instead of “Redskins” when writing about the home team. The Washington City Paper is an alternative weekly with a circulation estimated in 2009 at 71,000. The new name was decided by a poll of the paper’s readers.

By the way the nickname or mascot name the paper is going with is Pigskins. Aw hell, now there’s something else to complain about. Bad choice. But I do think that is better than the current team’s name.An editor at The Kansas City Star said it best about the craziness of having an NFL team with a name like “Redskins” which was definitely used in a derogatory manner when used back in the day:

…Ifind it inconceivable that the NFL still allows such a patently offensive name and mascot to represent the league in 2012.

I couldn’t agree more.

Here is the full Yahoo Sports story.

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Skip Bayless Wasn’t Necessarily Wrong For Saying Whites Root For The White Guy

Was he wrong?

You may have heard about the controversial remarks (again) by TV sports commentator Skip Bayless, who said basically that White football fans in D.C. would root for the second string quarterback to start over the Black guy, Robert Griffin III. Here’s his quote:

I’m going to throw it out there. You also have the black-white dynamic and the majority of Redskins fans are white. And it’s just human nature, if you’re white to root for the white guy,” Bayless contended. “It just happens in sports. Just like the black community will root for the black quarterback. I’m for the black guy. I’m just saying, I don’t like the dynamic for RG3. It could stunt his growth in the NFL.

You know what? I’m not mad at Bayless for what he said. I think there may well be some truth to it, whether we like hearing it or not. I certainly know that from a minority perspective, it is absolutely the truth that very often we will pull for a certain player to do well because he or she looks like us. Often, this has to do with breaking down barriers or because we want someone to serve as an inspiration to others, especially young people. Think Tiger Woods when he burst on the scene. Think Doug Williams winning the Super Bowl as the first Black quarterback. Obviously, think Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers.

Do I root for Black athletes more than White ones? No. But I do sometimes. And that’s true for me rooting for other minority athletes as well. Is it racist to do so? I don’t think so. But maybe it is. To me, as I said above, I do it usually because I want to see more people of color succeed as a way to show we can compete with anyone in anything.

So then is it wrong, if Bayless is right, that Whites will root for the White guy? I guess I really couldn’t argue with that if I do a similar thing at times, no matter how noble I think the motivation might be for me. I do hope that in time we all get to a point, where equality in sports, and other areas, is such that we can always root for a team or player simply because we like them or they are on our favorite team, regardless of what their ethnicity is.

Looks like we aren’t quite there yet. Here is a link to a larger article on the controversy.

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