Over the past several months, ICTMN has provided a significant amount of coverage on the ongoing controversy over the Washington Redskins name. As a result of this coverage, ICTMN has seen numerous responses and conversations on social media regarding its coverage of the Washington Redskins. Not all of it has been supportive.
According to several accounts on Twitter, Natives are often guilty of throwing other races under the bus in order to lambaste the Washington team. But Indian Country can fight this fight without bringing in another race or ethnic group. I have taken this opportunity to think outside the box and make several arguments that are “our own.”
The term Redskin indicates the bounty once placed on Native American skin.
According to a multitude of Native Historians and historical accounts, the term "Redskin" denotes money paid toward the eradication of Native Americans. An example is provided by Dallas Goldtooth, who posted an 1863 newspaper clipping on his Facebook page that advertised a reward for dead Indians as ‘$200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory.’ In his post, Goldtooth wrote, “It was only five generations ago that a white man could get money for one of my grandfather’s scalps.”
A newspaper clipping from The Daily Republican that Goldtooth posted on his Facebook page
Trademarks deemed racist are illegal under U.S. federal law.
Since 1905, federal trademark law has banned ‘scandalous or immoral’ trademarks. In 1947, trademarks that disparage, bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols were also banned.
In a case now before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Blackhorse et al. v. Pro-Football Inc., Amanda Blackhorse (Navajo) and five others are seeking to remove the federal trademark rights from the "Redskins."
If Blackhorse wins the case, the Washington NFL franchise will not be allowed to make money from the use of the Redskins trademark because the term will be deemed racist.
“The name Redskins hurts me."
This may seem like a simple point, but it is a no less valid point. If you are personally hurt by the term, no reasonable person can argue that away.
The name incites inappropriate and disgraceful behavior from football fans.
The Tomahawk Chop and horribly painted faces under Halloween headdresses are not just offensive, they are demeaning. Feathers are sacred to Native people, yet they are worn in mockery during sporting events.
During sacred ceremonies, in which Native people wear regalia or sing in their sacred languages and hold ceremony, alcohol is not used. A Google search of "Redskins" fans can turn up some pretty horrible results about over-indulgence with alcohol.
An inappropriate Redskins fan
We’ve been fighting this fight for decades.
Whoever says Native people are just now picking this fight can do some research on Suzan Harjo, an amazing Native American activist who has been fighting against the use of Native Mascots since the 1960s. Other research will uncover a decade’s long battle involving the American Indian Movement and several others who have long been fighting this fight.
The word Redskin is an English word; we didn’t start this.
In a recent interview on the Joe Madison Sirius XM Radio Program, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian Director Kevin Gover made a valid point about Native American’s using the term "Redskin." After citing the fact that Redskin was an English word, Gover said, “The Indians probably just asked what people called them—if they were told Redskin, than that is the term they would use.”
President Barack Obama, the NFL Commissioner and Senator Dorgan and many other leaders have questioned the Redskins name.
Native American organizations are not alone in their desire for the Redskins to change their name. President Barack Obama, Senator Byron Dorgan, NFL Commissioner Goodell, sportscaster Bob Costas, former Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask and several news organizations have questioned the use of the "Redskins" name.
President Obama talks to the AP on "redskins" name-change.
President Obama told the Associated Press in October, “If I were the owner of a team and I knew that there was a name of my team--even if it had a storied history--that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
Two Redskin Hall of Famers are against the name.
For serious "Redskin" fans, perhaps citing two players now against the name might give them something to think about. In an ICTMN article, “Art Monk and Darrell Green, both inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2008, told Washington’s WTOP-FM 103.5 that if Native Americans take umbrage with the name Redskins, or the like, then a name change should be “seriously considered.”
Responding to the ever popular, “What if I am offended by the ‘Insert Team Name’ because I am a ‘Insert Racial Group’?”
Examples might be, “I am Irish, what if I am offended by the ‘Fighting Irish’?” Or “I’m Scandinavian, I am offended by the Vikings.” Or “I am a twin; I am offended by the Twins.”
My response is always the same: If you were offended by it, I will stand right beside you if you decide to fight against it.