After being rebuffed by the NFL, Native American groups have taken to the airwaves to spread their message against the use of derogatory terms like “Redskins” in national sports.
During Game 3 of the NBA Finals this week, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation aired a TV commercial in sever major markets—Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, San Francisco and Washington—that shined a spotlight on the ongoing conflict between Native Americans and the NFL’s Washington Redskins, who have repeatedly refused to change the team’s mascot despite outcries from fans, government officials and players.
Produced by the National Congress of American Indians, the group claims that the NFL refused to allow the ad to air during the season. The Oneida Indian Nation did however air several radio commercials during the season.
“It’s just a time to get people thinking about putting an end to outward hatred and using sports as a tool to focus on racism,” said Marshall McKay, chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun tribal council. “The R-word is as derogatory a slur as the N-word. When this name first came to be, it was a vehicle for people to bring the victims of violence into an office so they could collect a bounty.”[more]
And while the latest action by the groups may have fell on deaf ears in the NFL, many others, including pro-athletes, have now spoken out in support of the movement.
The National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation penned a letter to more than 2,700 NFL players asking them to stand up against the name that “does not honor people of color, instead it seeks to conceal a horrible segment of American history and the countless atrocities suffered by Native Americans.”
They also sent the letter to the Twitter accounts of the players with the hashtag #rightsideofhistory. “Because you are in the NFL, you command a level of respect and credibility when speaking out about the league’s behavior,” the letter said. “Indeed, players are the most publicly identifiable representatives of the league, which means your support is critical to ending this injustice.”
— AmericanIndianMuseum (@SmithsonianNMAI) June 12, 2014
— Michael Woestehoff (@mikewoestehoff) June 11, 2014
Still, the major figures in the conflict have been slow to react. “Our use of ‘Redskins’ as the name of our football team for more than 81 years has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans,” a Redskins executive said. Meanwhile, Bruce Allen, president and GM of the Washington Redskins wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid in defense of the name after 50 US Senators urged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to endorse a name change. The link to the lengthy defense was retweeted by some of the team’s most popular players, with owner Dan Snyder calling the mascot name a “badge of honor.”
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) May 23, 2014
Despite pushback, the #ChangetheMascot campaign is taking off, with the organization utilizing the #ProudToBe hashtag on social media and launching a photo initiative, encouraging supporters to snap pictures of who they are “proud to be.”
— NCAI (@NCAI1944) May 19, 2014
• Connect with Sheila on Twitter: @srshayon