The R-word concept is dying hard

Gary Norris Gray

All professional sports teams need to drop their Native American names and mascots to respect our ancestors

This team in Washington D.C. continues to flail at the winds of change.

Though they have officially announced their name—before they make a final decision—The Washington Football Team still has other issues they must contend with.

There has been a history of sexual misconduct around the burgundy and gold for the last 15 years.

Washington continues to deflect their inappropriate behavior with the name-logo-mascot issue in one way by making league history with the first female radio broadcaster in the National Football League (the NFL.)

There is also a group in Washington that wants to keep the First Nation/Native American imagery, they call themselves the Pride Tribe.

Though they have made a gesture toward a name change, though they have hired a new broadcaster amidst sexual misconduct charges, the R-word franchise will march into history whether Dan Snyder likes it or not.

Currently in the 2020 season—if there is one—the team, now known as The Washington Football Team, will have no mascot.

Professional sports teams with Native American names and mascots are finished becoming a political football concept. Though the Washington Football Team has officially dropped the R-Word after 87 years, Dan Snyder still appears to be holding on to that name, or concept of Native appropriation-themes for dear life. Snyder is beholden to former owner George Preston Marshall's last dying wish, to never change the name.

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder waves to fans before an NFL football preseason game against the New England Patriots in Landover, Maryland on Thursday, August 7, 2014.
Washington Football Team (formerly R-word team) owner Daniel Snyder waves to fans before an NFL football preseason game against the New England Patriots in Landover, Maryland on Thursday, August 7, 2014.

Now, the Washington Football Team cannot stay out of the news with alleged sexual harassment charges by ex-Washington staffers as first reported in the Washington Post. This could be the final straw and the end of the Dan Snyder era in Washington D.C.

Snyder states that he will change the culture in the locker room and the front office, yeah, just like he changed the name of the football team thirty years ago, NOT!!

Julie Donaldson

Mr. Snyder understands that he has all eyes on him so he is trying to deflect some of the rightful criticism with a new vision. The Washington Football Team hired female broadcaster-director, Julie Donaldson.

It is not going to help until that disgusting and disgraceful name is officially changed and until Snyder, the NFL, and the Washington Football Team move away from Native American imagery.

Due to the Washington team’s efforts, the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks, Kansas City Chiefs, and Golden State Warriors are all looking in the mirror.

The age of First Nation/Native American appropriation in major teams sports mascots may be over with the Washington Football Team being the first to go down in flames.

The Pride Tribe

This new group Pridetribe.org states "Can we find a new name that will honor Native Americans, the history of the franchise and its fans, while remaining attractive to the National Football League, the advertisers, and the politicians?"

PrideTribe.org website screen capture
This website misses the entire point. (PrideTribe.org website screen capture.)

Pridetribe.org organizers did not receive a warm welcome. Many First Nation/Native Americans political activists do not want to be a mascot. We all need to question, ‘Where this group come from?’ and ‘Why are they pushing this name so hard?’

Who are these individuals and are they Native American/First Nation? Their leader is Caucasian and we need to ask, ‘Is this another attempt to tell minorities what to believe in? What to like or dislike? Pride or Tribe must not be included in any way with the new name of the Washington Football Team.

What Pridetribe.org designer Kurt Jennings did not tell the American public, is that when most NFL teams change their names, they also change their color and their mascots.

The old Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens, The New York Titans became the New York Jets, the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans and the old Houston Texans changed to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Washington Football Team would be wise to do the same.

The National Football League, Kurt Jennings, and the Washington Football Club are forgetting one key element, they did not even ask our first Americans.

The Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves baseball clubs are also feeling the political heat and are moving in different directions. Just as our country heads into different directions.

The Cleveland baseball organization will be moving forward and changing its name. The Atlanta Braves organization has made it known they are not changing their name at all. The Braves compromised and have said they will look into the Tomahawk chop this year, which is not a Native American tradition, it is appropriation.

The Atlanta front office stated that they will suggest the crowd not repeat the chant or the chop. (Good Luck with that.) Just like the Washington Football Club, its now just baby steps for the Atlanta Braves.

Professional teams are even moving away from First Nation/Native American Indian names north of the border. The (CFL) Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos will also change their name. The Canadian team is doing this out of respect to the Inuit Nation and their elders, unlike their American counterparts who do not understand or care.

The World Champion Kansas City Chiefs, the National Hockey League's Chicago Blackhawks, and the Golden State Warriors have stayed silent during the debate, the Chiefs, reveling over their Super Bowl victory, The Golden State Warriors are resting after their 5-year title run, and the Blackhawks are rebuilding their franchise. The political firestorm has not hit them yet. It will sooner or later.

The Cleveland Indians and the Washington Football Club have had enough and have thrown in the towel. NEXT!

In 1979, there were over 5,000 high schools and 500 colleges with Native American imagery.

In the past ten years, the political pressure has ratcheted up a notch to change their names. The numbers continue to drop in 2020 but racism still exists and the lack of respect continues.

That is why changing the names have been so difficult and painful. America wants to cling to that history and wants to make time stand still.

All professional sports teams need to drop their Native American names and mascots to respect our ancestors.

Gary Norris Gray is an African American-Native American, Leni-Lenape, disabled community activist, writer, author, and historian. He has contributed to such publications as Gibbs Magazine, New England Informer and The Grayline. He has written The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, he has also appeared on the radio programs Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, The Gray Leopard Cove, and The Batchelor News Radio Network. His email is glcgray@gmail.com

You can reach out to him on Twitter at @GaryNGray. | www.BASNNewsroom.com

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