By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
A notice in the Daily Republican newspaper, in Winona, Minn., on Sept. 24, 1863 reads, “The state reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory. This sum is more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.”
The Washington Redskins organization is facing mounting pressure again to change its name many in Indian Country deem as offensive. The current movement is an off-shoot of the changes sweeping the nation, following the murder of George Floyd in May, regarding monuments and symbols many deem as racist.
FedEx owns the naming rights to the Redskins’ stadium per a 1998 deal for $205 million that runs through 2025. In a statement on Thursday, July 2, FedEx officials noted, “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.”
As of Thursday as well, Nike has removed all Redskins gear and merchandise from its website. Patrons searching for Washington will be directed to other teams’ merchandise, and those searching for “Redskins” will receive a message saying it is not found. Redskins merchandise, as of this printing, is still available for purchase at the National Football League’s NFL Shop.
The Washington Redskins organization said in a statement on Friday, July 3, “In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name. This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement on July 3, “In the last few weeks, we have had ongoing discussions with Dan (Snyder) and we are supportive of this important step.”
The move by FedEx to request a name change is one that encourages the National Congress of American Indian (NCAI). Fawn Sharp, NCAI president, said on July 2, “Tonight’s action by FedEx is a wake-up call to all of those who choose to remain in business with the National Football League. In this historic moment and global movement for racial justice, they can no longer sit idly by as the league’s Washington franchise clings to a dictionary-defined racial slur as its mascot. The R-word is destined for the dustbin of history – its not a question of if, but when, and that time is now.”
Dan Snyder, Washington Redskins owner, said in a statement on July 3, “This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League, and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field.”
The Redskins current head coach, Ron Rivera, one of only four people of color who are head coaches currently in the NFL, said on July 3, “This issue is of personal importance to me, and I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our military.” This issue has been brewing for years.
The Oneida Nation of New York launched the Change The Mascot organization (ChangeTheMascot.org) several years ago. Ray Halbritter, Change The Mascot organization leader and Oneida Nation leader, said in a statement on July 2, “Change The Mascot praises FedEx and fully supports its historic request for Washington’s NFL team to stop using the R-word racial slur as its name and mascot. FedEx is rising to the moment and doing the decent thing by challenging the team to stop disparaging and denigrating people of color by maintaining a team name that is an offensive, racist epithet.”
Amanda Blackhorse, a member of the Navajo Nation and one of several plaintiffs in the landmark Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc. case, has been on a crusade to see the Washington team’s name changed for years. The case named above resulted in the team having six of its trademarks cancelled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2015 only to have that decision rendered moot by a U.S. Supreme Court decision two years later which ruled that the law banning “disparaging names” was unconstitutional.
She took to Twitter on July 2 stating, “…getting rid of the name R*dsk*ns and keeping imagery doesn’t address the issue. Appropriated Native imagery promotes stereotypes of Native people and encourages fans to dress in redface and wear fake headdresses. It is not an honor.”