ACTIVISTS TO TAKE “CHANGE THE NAME” DEMAND TO FOOTBALL TEAM’S HEADQUARTERS

The Washington Socialist <> December 2018

By Bill Mosley

On Saturday, December 8, activists pressing for a change to the Washington football team’s racist name will take their campaign to the club’s headquarters in Ashburn, VA. Members and friends of DSA are invited to ride along.

The event, organized by Rebrand Washington Football (RWF), will feature songs and ceremonies performed by Native American activists as well as remarks by participants, one of whom will be DC Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large). The activists also will present team representatives with petitions that were signed by more than 1,700 members of the public this year in support of a name change.

“The question for team owner Dan Snyder is: Does he want to become the last owner to drop a racial slur as a name for his team?” says Josh Silver, co-founder of RWF. “The first owner of the Washington football team was the last owner to integrate his team. I would hope that Mr. Snyder would not want to continue the ignominious tradition of being the last to shed a racist past. But considering the thousands of teams that have shed racial stereotypes, Mr. Snyder’s stubbornness may make him the last. Instead, a prominent team in the nation’s capital should be setting an example by ridding itself of a racist past.”

RWF was formed in 2015 as a grassroots group to pressure the team to change its name, which is a dictionary-defined racial slur. This will be the fourth year RWF has delivered signatures to team headquarters. More than 7,000 people have signed the petition demanding a name change over that time.

A forthcoming paper written by Silver highlights research on the harmful effects of Native mascots and imagery on both Native and non-Native youth. The paper cites a report by the American Psychological Association which found that “for non-Native youth, these mascots reinforced negative stereotypes while for Native American youth they perpetuated a hostile learning environment and lowered self-esteem.”

In recent decades, according to the RWF paper, numerous college and high-school teams have dropped Native names and mascots — and not only patently offensive names such as the one used by the Washington team, but also names such as “Braves” and “Indians” which reinforce stereotypical views of Natives. Of high schools that once used Native names or logos about two-thirds of them, a total of about 2,000 schools, no longer did by 2013, according to the National Congress of American Indians. A smaller number of colleges — 14, according to the National Collegiate Athletic Association — had stopped using racial or ethnic mascots and names by 2005.

RWF and other name-change advocates hope to extend this trend to the professional ranks, where change has been harder to come by. Among the few positive developments have been the Cleveland Indians’ decision to remove the offensive “Chief Wahoo” logo from its uniforms starting in 2019, although the team will continue to sell Wahoo merchandise; and the San Francisco (now Golden State) Warriors’ retiring their Native mascot in 1969.

“Mascots take a human toll on Native peoples,” said RWF co-founder Ian Washburn. “RWF will continue to educate and inform a public that is growing increasingly aware. Many thanks to our mentors like Suzan Shown Harjo, Amanda Blackhorse, Charlene Teeters, and the countless others who’ve been working to retire racist mascots for decades.”

Members of DSA are invited to join the caravan to Ashburn. Participants will meet at the Rosslyn Metro station at 9:00 and ride a free charter bus (with a restroom) to team headquarters for the ceremony and petition delivery. The bus will return to the station by noon. DSA members who would like to attend should contact Bill Mosley as soon as possible to reserve a space.

Please join Rebrand Washington Football on December 8 to strike a blow against racism by demanding that Dan Snyder CHANGE THE NAME!

The Washington Socialist is the newsletter and editorial publication of Metro DC DSA. The views and opinions expressed here may not reflect those of the chapter, and publication of any information should not be considered an endorsement. For our chapter's official statements, please visit the Statements section of our main site.

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