We have been going through a period where insensitive jokes, comments, accents, etc., have shown up in the Republican Party. We have seen episodes in Wisconsin and yesterday in Florida. There is another type of insensitivity that gets mentioned from time-to-time. But, since Americans love their sports, it doesn’t get the attention is probably should because many people don’t see it as political. Of course, I am talking about sports team nicknames.
There is currently a lawsuit filed against the Washington Redskins by Native American Groups. The lawsuit is looking to strip the team from its federal trademark protection. Dan Snyder, the owner of the team, says that the nickname is meant to “honor” Native Americans. In order to show just how much he cares about them, he announced that he is creating a foundation to assist Native Americans. I applaud him for that foundation. However, I take issue with his statement that the name is “honoring” and “showing respect to Native Americans”.
In a letter he says:
”It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. ‘We must do more.” The letter goes on to state the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation will ”provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities” for Native Americans. The announcement did not state whether Snyder will personally donate any money to the foundation and gave no other financial details.
A major opponent of the nickname said Snyder’s move was ”somewhere between a PR assault and bribery.” Suzan Shown Harjo, a lead figure in a long-running case told The Associated Press that Snyder is showing the ”same arrogance” that he’s shown previously when defending the nickname.
”I’m glad that he’s had a realization that Native Americans have it tough in the United States,” Harjo said. ”All sorts of people could have told him that, and have been trying to tell him that for a long time.”
If Mr. Snyder would take a little time to look at history, he will discover, probably to his amazement, that the term “redskin” was used as a racial slur towards Native Americans. Native Americans were considered as “savages” by the white community throughout our history. White society valued the land Native Americans held as hunting grounds, and went out of their way to mostly kill-off the native populations.
Since that time, Native Americans, especially those living on reservations, suffer in extreme poverty. Many reservations don’t even have basic infrastructure. They have mostly been ignored by the government and other American Citizens. Their plight is almost invisible to most Americans. That has resulted in nothing being done to help them get out of the poverty they suffer.
I find it very difficult to believe that anyone could claim that using a racial slur as a team nickname is “honoring” those people. What kind of outcry would ensue if a team renamed themselves Honkies? Or if a team called themselves the Hymies? These wouldn’t go over well. So, why should we condone the use of Native American nicknames?
In the movie The Dog Soldiers, an anthropologist who specialized in Native American scholarship said “What happened to the Native Americans was inevitable. The way it happened was unconscionable”. Continuing using Native American nicknames for sporting teams could fall under the second sentence. It is time we listen to their concerns. After all, they were here first!