Top image is courtesy of (Carolyn Kaster AP/ChangeTheMascot.org)
I’m disgusted with having to write
Redskins, but in order to educate I need the subject to be clear. I personally support human rights causes and organizations such as ChangeTheMascot.org and the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media. Those are proudly the views of Jason Anthony Fisher and not necessarily anyone else. However, my co-founding partners at OTBR have been very supportive on my wanting to express my concerns about this issue and others.
Mostly at OTBR, we have fun, sometimes we get sports scientific and break out the stats or provide projections and analysis. This article is not, it deals with the harsh truth that the NFL Washington football franchise needs to realize it is time to be a part of the correct side of history. Before you click away thinking this is just another “PC” article, I want you to know that I believe the overwhelmingly majority of the American public would want the name changed if they became aware of the Washington football team’s nickname’s actual origin. Most people think it is just a reference to skin complexion, it is NOT. It never was!
Granted, when it comes to some subjects in society and some sport’s teams nicknames there is a lot of room for debate and in future articles I will go further into the Native American mascot issue, and other mascots. As you read this I freely admit I have always been a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks and will discuss that team and changes they’ve made and can make in future articles, in order to prevent harm.
In this isolated case, once a person learns the truth (sadly most of the American Education system, and the self-proclaimed “Progressive” part of the media usually does not report) that the ugly, sick origin of the name that begins with an R and ends with the letters K-I-N-S, they should understand. I think many people just assume the fallacy, that it merely refers to complexion and pass on the myth.
It is possible Mr. Dan Snyder, who grew up in Maryland rooting for a local team, in this case Washington, and the team owner since 1999, may not be aware of the truth. However, by now he and his legal council, particularly a well known Democrat, Lanny Davis (He represented Bill Clinton from 1996-1998, seems to be genuinely, open-minded to every other demographic, I’m disappointed and shocked he defends this organization and its slur of a nickname,… Lanny, please, turn back into a Jedi, don’t go down a Darth Vader path, you’re too good for that}, have had ample time to properly research the issue. I want to believe most fans (at least 85 %, I hope) who pack NFL stadiums, and are glued to big screen TV’s, are not bigots and not aware of the truth.
Matter of fact, I think it is in the nature of every person on this globe who follows their home town sport’s franchise that even if their team were called say “The Green Robots”, they would root for them. I want to believe most fans of Washington or another team, do not sit around thinking up ways of how they can be offensive, other than shouts to opposing teams and players who they detest and telling them “fill in the player’s name…you suck”.
I don’t deny that there are some hateful outright bigots (could be anywhere from 1% to maybe 15% of the fans), who also attend games, because Native led protests (which include people of all backgrounds supporting the cause) at Washington’s FedEx field, have been subjected to racial slurs, Native women being called the Sexist/Racist slur that starts with an Sq and ends in -uaw, (A sexual pejorative) the infamous middle finger, and many condescending, insensitive, disparaging comments, and references to scalping.
HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF THE R-WORD
From where the R******S, racial slur originates from and it is an undeniable fact, back when European Colonial powers (Great Britain, France, Spain, and the Netherlands) were prying their way into the North American continent from both the east coast and the west coast in California, and Mexico, colonial militaries made allies with various Indian tribes, and introduced the concept of taking a scalp to claim a bounty for money, and the scalp would provide proof. That’s right, scalping concept was an introduced practice. Plenty of European immigrants and military personnel made a living partaking in this as well as Natives who got involved and used it as an opportunity to weaken rival tribes.
This evolved in the frontier days where trading posts sold buffalo-skin, wolf-skin, beaver-skin, bear-skin, and yes, amongst all of these other furs and hunted animal exteriors, there were actual bounties, (primarily the bounty hunters of humans were white males), on First Nations people and their human skin was carved off their bodies to make into leather, their “hides were tanned like a deer”, that was made into things like tobacco pouches and coin bags, etc. These human skins were labeled R******s and were even labeled by gender, and age, adult and child, for example Native men were further labeled as “Bucks”. I will spare further hideous details. I would equate this BUTCHERY to what the ISIL extremists are doing or other horrific atrocities in world history.
RACIAL SLURS ARE NOT HONORING
Ever since frontier times many Native Americans up into modern day have been victims of verbal assaults that include use of the Racist R-word. You can’t tell me the R******S racial slur isn’t as bad as a racial slur can be. Due to it’s ugly history the Federal courts recently removed Washington’s football team of it’s trademark protection, which now has Dan Snyder suing the activists, because he wants the right to keep making money off the Racist slur. You can’t tell me that it is “Honoring” indigenous peoples. Just like the Confederate flag has been getting taken down from government buildings, Washington’s NFL franchise needs to do the right thing and change the awful name. You do not have to be a tribally enrolled member of a Federally recognized Native American Tribe in the USA or Canada, to be offended by this name. I am not a tribally enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe, but I am a human being just like you and everyone one else and I cannot in good conscious support this team name, nor will I ever use it in any of my future sport’s articles. You will also notice I have never used it before until this article.
Washington’s use of the R-Word as a nickname is slander on an entire race of people.
IMAGERY OF NATIVE PEOPLE
To put it all into perspective, what adds to the negativity of this image is that most Non-Native Americans, rarely meet or get to know someone of Native heritage and culture, they are limited to what they learn in the school system, which is not much and relegated to the past, occasional news coverage of Native owned Casinos, stereotypical roles in film and television, Halloween outfits along with mostly fictional characters as if the culture is not real and something to play, and the most common images everyone sees about Native Americans are Sports Mascots.
That’s salt on the wound for a people who have survived 500 plus years of genocide and then “honored” with such disrespect. To the best of my knowledge, American Indians are the ONLY group in the USA, who are continuously subjected to such injustice in the North American professional sports landscape, where a pro team uses a Racist slur as the nickname and where the history proves it is obviously derogatory.
MAJOR COPORATE TEAM SPONSORS
FEDEX, COCOA-COLA, BANK OF AMERICA.
There has been some movement by some FedEx shareholders to stop supporting this slur, but other shareholders are resisting. No comments from Coca-Cola or Bank of America.
Yes, it is an undeniable fact that in 1933, the head coach, Lone Star Dietz, a Native American approved and/or helped select the name of the team. It is also fact that the team, started as the Boston Braves, in 1932, and was owned by a strong segregationist, Preston Marshall, who moved the team to a city that held his segregation point of view, Washington D.C., and was the last owner to allow African-Americans to be on his team in 1962.
ANY CONSENSUS IN THE NATIVE COMMUNITY?
No, there isn’t, but I doubt there is a single demographic in the world who is 100 % on anything. Yes, I have read and heard claims where some tribally enrolled members, allegedly like it, and many are indifferent, and some native high schools actually have this slur surprisingly as the nickname of their teams, but enough do feel pain, and are offended. They have a right to be and their voices should be HEARD. For those that choose to have that nickname on their high schools, guess what? It is their community and their choice to determine how they want their own image represented. The use of that R-word, or any derivative of the term which some do use, is a debate that only belongs to Native people, and nobody else.
For all of Washington’s fans I offer the open door of Fan Amnesty, even if you were wearing chicken feather outfits and makeup, I suspect you did not realize the harm being done, choose to support the right side of history, humanity all around the globe is usually very forgiving. In addition, sooner or later the human beings who stand against this nickname are going to win over enough people to make the change. Don’t go into defensive mode and deny the harm of the name and claim no change is necessary, because if you are a good person and not a racist, show it by helping change happen. This is a CIVIL rights issue. Join the side of justice now without blame.
DEFENDERS OF THE TEAM NAME
Dan Snyder, in the spring of 2014, started the Original Americans Foundation (Foundations are wonderful tax shelters), in order to give little checks to Native causes. The below image is courtesy of (Lana Berry/FOX/NFL)
A few Native political leaders have warmly received check$, and some have already been impeached from tribal office afterward. Ben Shelly in the photo above is widely expected to be a one term Navajo President. That is a logical hint that there are far more who disdain the football nickname than those who are indifferent or like it. Some tribes have flat out rejected money, such as the Cheyenne River Dakota Nation. It appears like Dan Snyder is trying to purchase support for the name.
Regarding the Annenburg study in 2004, that claimed 90 % of Native Americans said it doesn’t matter or were not offended, I doubt the study’s validity. There is no clarification where the study took place or if these are tribally enrolled members of federally recognized tribes, or just descendants in the greater Washington D.C. area, who may or may not have any connection to their heritage or fully aware of the history. However, you will find many descendants who are aware of the origin and they are also outraged and stand with their federal recognized relations. I do think that those who live in and are actively involved in the Native community and continuing their culture on a daily basis, have a larger voice to determine the overall stance.
A couple more arguments to put to rest, defenders love to cite the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and ask with a gotcha twinkle in their eye. Actually, Notre Dame’s Leprechaun mascot is a fictional, mythical character, not a racist slur or a misrepresentation of real people. What about the Minnesota Vikings? Minnesota has many descendants of Scandinavian origin and therefore Viking heritage. They had the wonderful option of self-determination and may choose at any time to change their minds. Indigenous Americans should be so fortunate as to have the opportunity to self-determine their own image in America without the harmful consequences that affect future generations.
CULTURAL APPROPRIATION AND REDFACE
Let’s get back to those fans who choose to adorn fake headdresses and face paint, this is no different than Blackface minstrels, except in this case it’s Redface. And white people aren’t the only ones doing it, as bigotry can effect the mind of any race or ethnicity. Being a part of another group of people that have a painful history in America does not make it the right kind of racism either! You could say Washington’s fandom is a diverse effort of appropriating First Nation’s Cultures.
The most famous Redface “performer”, is an African-American man, who goes by Chief Zee.
SIMILAR EXAMPLE OF DISRESPECT
Chief Zee looks every bit as ridiculous and racist as college fraternities and sororities that dress up in blackface for parties. Below is the Asian-American Fraternity, Lambda Theta Delta in 2013 at UC-IRVINE, and courtesy of (Buzznewsnow). …Hmm, now it’s not funny and offensive.
THE NEGATIVE IMPACT ON NATIVE AMERICAN YOUTH
Dan Snyder, remember the team owner, a few years ago said something to the effect that the team name isn’t a big issue and Native Americans should focus on more important issues. WOW. Dude seriously? How is a successful business owner not aware Racism is kind of a big deal and so dismissive? How does a man who, although a White American male, is a member of a religious minority group that has historically suffered BIG-TIME from Anti-Semitism not more sensitive?
Dear Dan, our human brother, help us, to help you, there has got to be some ounce of good in you. If you evolve on on this, you’ll be a person who did the right thing.
Apparently, he is not aware of the damage it can have on some Native American youth, and this team lack of national debate is the perfect example of how society tends to treat Native Americans on every issue such as treaty rights, it is all tied together. Suicide is an epidemic in the American Indian and Native Alaskan community, as of June 24th, 2015 it has been revealed the suicide rate is 2.5 times the national average, according to estimates by the White House.
MORE EXAMPLES OF TERRIBLE SPORTS MASCOTS
There are a few examples of other groups bestowed with ugly mascot honors, such as a high school in Illinois. Be warned as that high school used a racial slur against Asians, until it changed in 1981, for its team name. Video is courtesy of (Mascot origins). Ah, now its not cool.
Here is another, of Coachella Valley high school that used Arabs as mascots, complete with stereotypes until 2014 , yeah 2014, (Palm Springs, Ca), and it looks pretty offensive. The video is courtesy of (TYT sports). This ethnically diverse community, led by a slight Hispanic majority decided to keep the name, but dropped the mascot. More in a future article.
For those that ask, you are an Indie filmmaker, what if you make a movie about racism on Native Americans? If I were to make a documentary about the origin of the R-word (Someday I might) and why it is as bad as any slur, including the N-word (A slur which the NFL officially banned players from using just a couple years ago, while banking millions off another slur for one of their franchises), and has not only been historically used on African-Americans, but Indigenous Americans have had several versions of the N-word hurled at them too), and other slurs.
Let’s face it, even if a slur isn’t as commonly known as another, and a person is subjected to it, it is painful regardless of historical context. Anyone who hides behind historical context for racial and ethnic slurs is actually excusing the slur.
Back on point, in order to prove the point against bigotry I would have to have the courage to show the racism and HEAR it’s ugliness in the film for the audience to get the message, I am aware of that.
As a sport’s writer in order to get the lesson across I need to do something Dan Snyder and Disney-owned ESPN, and The NFL, and Roger Goodell their commissioner haven’t done and that is ban it from my articles by changing it in any future articles by me, will simply be the Washington team or franchise.
I hope we can save the Washington Fans from the dark side of the force and turn them all (Chief Zee too) into Jedis, and for them to persuade Mr. Dan Snyder to see the light. Folks, it is okay to evolve, everyone on the planet (especially a bonehead like me) has made mistakes in life, but we can apologize and make the proper adjustment.
If Dan Snyder and the fans want to honor Native Americans they could start by asking the activists, such as Amanda Blackhorse, Suzanne Harjo, and Charlene Teters, as well as others for how they can go about it or go to your fans and find something entirely different to bestow “honor” without being offensive.
Feel free to continue this debate in the common section, whether you disagree, agree, or feel I have no business voicing an opinion on this subject, rip me in a comment. I will gladly stand up for what I think is right, even if it isn’t socially cool.