From Indians to Redskins : is it time to stop using Native American names in sports?

by cec7795 on November 7, 2016 - 11:39pm

the article I choose to read was “Reflections on the Symposium on Racist Stereotypes in American Sport at the National Museum of the American Indian” the author Richard King talks about how while on the surface this may seem like a straight forward issue but it has some unexplored complexities. Every year around the time that football starts up again I will turn on ESPN or some other major sports network and here them talking about the Washington Redskins and wether or not  this will be the year they will change there name. Sports fans for the most part know the answer already since the owner Dan Snyder who has owned the team since 1964 refuse to change the name and says that it is not racist of disrespectful of Native American culture. However they are far from being the only team name based Native Americans that could be considered racists. In Kings article talks about how this is not only a problem on a professional sports level but this also applies through almost ever level of sport including high school and college. In another article written by Hayley Munguia on there are around 2,100 other teams that names or mascots that are connected to Native Americans. The teams that use this mascots all seem to suggest that they are doing it to memorialize or celebrate native americans and while this may be true, teams like the Washington Redskins and Carthage College Red Men seem more like a form harassment and discrimination. In more recent years there has been some success in changing names of some college and high school team names the problems seem to be in larger colleges or pro sports where it is next to impossible to even bring the issue or protest to the team. Another reason this issue seems to get overlooked or dismissed is that sometimes these teams get backing from certain tribes because unlike the Redskins, they use specific tribe names that would not really be considered racist. Going into this article I thought that this might be a black and white situation where you either support the use of these names and mascots or you don’t, it seems however like with most things that there is some grey area. My question is if teams like the Redskins and Carthage College Red Men where forced to change there names should theses other teams that are in the grey area be forced to change their’s as well? Where should we draw the line when in comes to naming teams and basing mascots on another people culture?


Interesting post. What drew me to it was your title, and the question at the end of it. It is indeed a good question that our modern society has to ask itself; do we have the willingness to accept that certain terms and designations ought to be considered as racist, or at least offensive. It is so not only because the mere term "red skin" is offensive itself, it is also that it is used to label a whole category of an oppressed people, whose social situation is still subpar. Even in the 21st century, they are still viewed like this, hence the reasons why they are still depicted like that. This is where I connected it to my Myth and Racism class and the concept of implicit racism. The problem with those terms, aside from their origins in a pro-white colonial America, is the fact that people today, still categorize all 'Indians' as being red skins. Not having their own culture or heritage, no, but rather them all sharing these few stereotypical traits. It is this colonial image of a 'savage' and 'uncivilized' and potentially 'dangerous' being that is depicted in these team logos, not their actual cultural heritage.And so the owners or fans of these team, tend in the process, by accepting it,to generalize or simply be dubious of the true racist meaning of this term. I will even go as far as to call these modern-day depictions as being a type of subtle, implicit racism. Perhaps, this was not meant to be racist, but the fact that the thought of not calling this racist, results from a societal acceptation to overlook certain things and accept others, especially if those things could put the white-majority in discomfort. Put it is not truly their fault. It is unconscious and implanted at a young age because we haven't drawn that line yet. But, as is the proof with the two 'sides' of the issue, it is hard to detect(if it is racist) and even harder to get rid of it. I will even go further, do you think that the reason why this accepted racist depiction,is the reason why there is an unequal distribution of wealth among Native Americans. To answer the question, I think it is past time we draw this line, or else we'll just continue to sink deeper into accepting racism. But only once the new generation learns how to truly conceptualize racism in all its forms(explicit and implicit).

Very interesting subject! What drew me to your post is the title, but also the facts that I was having this debate with my friend a few days ago. First of all, I agree with you. I don’t believe sports team should be allowed to use other individuals’ culture as their name, even less as their mascot. I think this is unacceptable, because most of the team names and the appearance of the mascots are based on stereotypes, which is a form of racism. My friend on the other hand thinks that this is not racism, as you mentioned Hayley Munguia explained in her article. He believes that this is the sports team’ way to commemorate the Native American culture, and, therefore, that it is good. If I were to analyze this situation with what I learned in my race & racism class, I would say that my friend, Hayley Munguia, as well as Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins are experiencing implicit racism, which is a set of wrong beliefs and assumptions that an individual is not aware that s/he has. This would explain why they do not agree that these stereotypes are racist and offensive to the group they took it from.

This post made me thinks about two aspects that I have never considered to look at together before; sports and racism. I therefore was very interested and began to read more about the subject through your original article and other sources. However, I must disagree with you on certain aspect, a mascot is seen a symbolic item to either bring luck to a team or as a symbol of their teams power and skills. For example taking the team you mentioned, the Washington Redskins, they are not using the image of an aboriginal in means of discrimination but as a symbol of power and strength. Furthermore, although the term Red Skins has come to be a racist term, according to Ives Goddard ( goddard/redskin.pdf) the name Red Skins was created as a symbol of unity by multi level tribes travelling through Washington. Although I disagree with your view on mascots, the Washington Redskins does stay as a single example, you are right that there are many teams out there in the sports world who have racist and offensive names. That is why your final statement made me consider where the line should be drawn when naming or finding a mascot for sports teams. This issue can much similarly be related to an issue we discussed in my class around the time of Halloween, on the same subject of aboriginals and costumes. We tried to state where is the line should be drawn in “Indian” costumes. Much similar to your perspective, at what point does a costume become racist and acceptable?

Very interesting topic! What drew me to your post was the name, “From Indians to Redskins: is it time to stop using Native American names in sports?” Since I’m not a sports fan I had never really thought or even knew that there were sport team named and mascots that were “Native American themed” (for lack of a better word), but I’m glad that it has been brought to my attention. Appropriating and disrespecting Native American culture in North America has been a problem for some time, and it doesn’t just stop at sports names. Since Halloween just passed, I’m sure you saw all the costumes that were appropriating and sexualizing Native American culture, which is equally as disrespectful as having a sports team called “Redskins”. All of these things help keep the Native American stereotypes alive, which we have been discussing in my class. In my class, we talked about Disney movies, and how some of them perpetuate stereotypes. For example, in Aladdin, the opening line to the first song is “Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” Racism in pop culture (as well as sports culture) is detrimental to a society because it desensitizes people to it, and makes people think it’s okay. In your post you say, “Another reason this issue seems to get overlooked or dismissed is that sometimes these teams get backing from certain tribes because unlike the Redskins, they use specific tribe names that would not really be considered racist.” It’s this kind of implicit racism that gets overlooked, and almost gives people “permission” to behave this way because it’s “not that bad”. Since there are over 2,000 sports teams in America with Native American themed names, it will take some time to change the way our society perceives what is and isn’t racist, or at the very least, what is just plain disrespectful.

I have come across this topic before which is what drew me to your post. I agree with you that this is controversial and that answers vary. As you said not only are the Washington Redskins brought up but so are numerous amounts of other teams on the professional and amateur level such as the Cleveland Indians for example. This can be considered in the gray area while many see it as a black and white issue. I personally see both sides to the coin. As a child I played baseball on a team where we were the Indians (based off of the Cleveland Indians). The reason I can see this could be considered racist is the use of the team name. The idea that a lot of these teams to use Native Americans refer to them as redskins can be seen as unjust. Referring to them as redskins is problem since it is a derogatory term for many. Also the portrayal of the teams mascots can be seen as stereotypical especially teams that just use the term Indians and redskins instead of mentioning the type or tribe. It is as if a sports team was called the Blacks and their mascot was dressed in baggy pants, a hoodie, and had a gold chain around its neck. The other side of the coin is that the name is not negative and instead represents Natives in a positive light as it shows them as a strong, determined, and powerful group of people. Sports teams tend to take the names of mighty groups of people and things instead of ones perceived as weaker and timid which is why there are very few sports teams that take on the names of ponies or teddybears. It is something for someone to wear the identity of your ethnic group and to be proud about it. The Washington Redskins players represent their team proudly when they step on the field. It is as if a team were named after samurais or vikings. However these teams don't refer to samurais or vikings as yellow people or the whites which is why it would be probably best if these teams that do refer to Native Americans use their formal tribal names such as the Apaches or the Navajos.

I have talked about this topic before and that is what drew me to read your post. My reaction to this post is that the grey area for team names is just too large and i don't think anyone will ever change that. Maybe some High schools will change their names because they are not as well recognized but the higher teams like college and national sports have to much recognition for their team and they won't want to lose that recognition. My psych class last year brought up this topic and the whole class agreed that there is no need to change the name of the Redskins because it is to well known, not offensive, and has been there for too long to have someone change it. My point is if this was offensive to the tribe then why would they have not said something earlier? Why are we only hearing about this now? Very interesting topic and will probably be continued to be talked about for a while.

I was drawn to this article as a sports fan, and I must say that I agree with the above comment that these names will most likely never be changed. Not only is it because of the seemingly racist team names, which is certainly subject to opinion, but because it simply makes no marketing sense to change the names. The teams that come to mind when thinking about possibly racist names are the Washington Redskins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Cleveland Indians. All of which either have an enormous fan base, or are continuously successful in their respected sport. Changing these names would mean a change in all merchandise, which would cost substantial amounts of money. I understand that these names may seem racist, but if we think about it from a financial standpoint, it is a mere impossibility. As far as high schools and colleges go, a city near my hometown's mascot is the Villa Novan, which is a Native American tribe, but since that mascot is so ingrained in their culture, there have been very few times where they have been pushed to change the name. Whether or not it is racist aside, there is no reason to believe that these will ever be changed.

What drew me to this post is that i myself am a sports fan and am interested in the subject at hand. What i feel is that the names of these sports teams will never change because they are huge franchises. Although i do agree how these names can be offensive and not right I do not believe that will change these huge sports franchises names that have grown a huge fan base and a ton of things off of their team name. This was a very interesting post to me because I too do feel that the names of these teams can be offensive but do not see how it will ever change. I would like to see them change but don't think it will ever happen or happen soon for the most part.

What drew me to this post is that i myself am a sports fan and am interested in the subject at hand. What i feel is that the names of these sports teams will never change because they are huge franchises. Although i do agree how these names can be offensive and not right I do not believe that will change these huge sports franchises names that have grown a huge fan base and a ton of things off of their team name. This was a very interesting post to me because I too do feel that the names of these teams can be offensive but do not see how it will ever change. I would like to see them change but don't think it will ever happen or happen soon for the most part.

The title of this post was intriguing, but i just have a hard time believing that this will ever be changed. We have high schools in my division back home with racist names towards indians but it is swept under the carpet and considered no big deal. I do agree that these names can be considered offensive or racist, i personally can't feel the way someone that is offended by this could. I personally think we need to have a higher tolerance for people and try to be less offensive as a country. Starting with simple things like the names of sports teams could go a long way.

What first drew me to the article was the title mainly because I haven’t heard of the issue with the Redskins name, most likely because I’m not a huge fan of football. I can see how people find that name racist but I can also see why they don’t want to change the name. Sports team names like Redskins and Red men almost seem like they are disrespecting Native Americans, however, I don’t necessarily agree with that for all the team names. Sports teams and mascots claim they are doing it for memorialization and celebration which I think reigns true for most of them however a select few maybe not. A high school by me used to be called the warriors for their mascot until people complained it was racist and disrespectful. They had to change their name and their symbol, which was an Indian, to satisfy those who were bothered. Although this name might upset some people I don’t think the use of Native American names will be changed.

What initially drew me to this post was the topic surrounding the context of sports. Being a sports fan it has been difficult to incorporate much on race and racism into sports so I felt the need to attempt to tackle this topic. What also drew me to this topic was that we had previously discussed this situation in class so I wasn't completely blind to the situation at hand. I found it very interesting that there are certain tribes that back the Redskins name just because they use a different name and they don't find the Redskin name racist. I find this kind of selfish because they are disowning the racism involved just because it doesn't affect them directly. For it to be necessary to make a change in sports teams using Native culture to garner profit, all Indigenous people must be on board in fighting against racism sports teams names. When you brought up the topic of how some cultures could be offended by these team names it made me think about an in-class discussion we had concerning Halloween costumes and how some are insensitive to certain peoples culture. These are similar because both corporations (sports teams and companies that sell these Halloween costumes) are taking advantage of these cultures by using them for a profit. The point you brought up about there being many more Native team names out there just shows how "acceptable" this has become and it will talk the Native people and everybody else to come together and protest against these offensive team names.

I chose to comment on this post because a school in my district's mascot is the Indian. It has been a controversial topic talked about for years where people have debated whether or not to change its mascot to something that isn't taken offensively. The school's excuse is that they are remembering the native Americans and are not targeting present day indians at all. Personally, I see how people could be offended by the mascot name if they have a personal connection and are sensitive to it. Since this is such a prevalent issue in my area, I felt like I had to comment on it! I also think that the team, "Redskins" and "Red Men" can be taken offensively so why keep the name? They may as well be changed so no one feels victimized or targeted. Sports fans may go crazy if names of their favorite teams are changed but it is in the best interest of the population that nobody feels offended by team names or school mascots.

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