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Washington’s football luck won’t change until the team’s mascot does — The Undefeated

Washington’s football luck won’t change until the team’s mascot does — The Undefeated

One other luckless Sunday for Washington’s NFL staff — however not and not using a glimmer of hope.

On Nov. 18, with D.C. down 20-14 to the Houston Texans and simply over 12 minutes left, second-string quarterback Colt McCoy — filling in for Alex Smith, who suffered a ugly, season-ending compound fracture in the third quarter — cocked again the football as if to throw, slipped beneath a tackler and scrambled to the proper for a 14-yard achieve earlier than being pushed out of bounds at the Eight-yard line. McCoy’s rush put Washington inside hanging distance of the Houston finish zone and the lead. From there it was straightforward: On the ensuing play, operating again Adrian Peterson bounded left round the Texans’ protection for the landing.

Beer-gripping followers gave one another high-fives. Throughout the means, a man sporting a headdress jumped out of his seat. One dude spun round to direct an in-your-face smirk at a close-by Texans supporter. Washington kicked the additional level to settle the rating at 21-20, and the stadium broke out into the team’s 80-year-old struggle track:

“Hail to the Redskins

Hail Victory

Braves on the warpath

Struggle for previous D.C.!”

Flag-bearers waving the “HTTR” insignia sprinted throughout the subject, crisscrossing at the 50-yard line above the team’s umber Buffalo nickel-styled Indian head emblem. From nosebleed seats, I watched the crimson and yellow plenty under belt out their chant another time, brown head and lengthy braid stuffed right into a hoodie to hide my in any other case too-apparent racial id.

mascots are disappearing, however not quick sufficient

Native American mascots are slowly disappearing from sports activities, however Washington’s football workforce may be the final to change. That’s painful to abdomen in November 2018, Native American Heritage Month.

For greater than 50 years, Native-led campaigns have eliminated greater than 2,000 “Indian” references from groups, accounting for two-thirds of the racial references as soon as ubiquitous in American sports activities tradition. The Nationwide Congress of American Indians (NCAI), kind of the indigenous equal to the NAACP, counts fewer than 1,000 Native mascots in the United States right now. Since the civil rights period, no skilled groups have adopted racially stereotyped names or emblems. In 2005, the NCAA established its personal coverage and program to take away Native mascots from school sports activities. And simply final week, Main League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians unveiled new uniforms that may, for the first time in 70 years, not use the red-faced, hook-nosed, wide-grinned and completely offensive “Chief Wahoo” emblem.

For a lot of Native People, this marks a welcome, if not glacial, sea change in fashionable tradition. Illustration has deep impression on our psychology and society. American Indians — who represent simply 1.5 % of the inhabitants, with greater than a 3rd dwelling on remoted reservations — are largely absent from mainstream media. This invisibility makes the few prevalent portrayals of Native individuals, akin to workforce names and mascots, all the extra highly effective. Peer-reviewed research have proven that these depictions are detrimental to the psychological well being of Native youth, who reveal a decrease sense of self- and group value and categorical a extra pessimistic outlook on their very own alternatives for achievement after publicity to those photographs. And amongst non-Native individuals, Indian mascots strengthen prevailing biases.

“If people can call us bad things in public, they can do anything to us,” stated Suzan Proven Harjo of the Cheyenne and Muskogee tribes.

These impacts are notably troubling for Native communities lengthy affected by the intergenerational psychological wounds inflicted by the violence of conquest, abuse in government-run boarding faculties and on a regular basis life in a few of the poorest communities with the weakest infrastructure in the nation. Native People have the highest suicide fee of any racial group, and Native youth ages 11-19 use alcohol extra typically than their non-Native friends. Native individuals, and notably Native ladies, stay with an escalated danger of bodily and sexual violence. A 2016 Division of Justice research confirmed that 56 % of Native ladies surveyed have skilled or are experiencing sexual violence and that the perpetrators of 90 % of those abusive acts are non-Indian.

“If people can call us bad things in public, they can do anything to us,” defined Suzan Proven Harjo of the Cheyenne and Muscogee tribes, who’s president of the Morning Star Institute and former president of NCAI. Harjo, who can also be a famous author, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2014. After the Redskins final gained the Tremendous Bowl in 1992, she filed a lawsuit to revoke the trademark for the team’s identify.

The time period “redskin,” in accordance with Harjo and lots of historians and linguists, is a racial slur referencing Native American pores and skin colour and — right here is the extra troubling declare — the bloody scalps of Native individuals taken as bounty by vigilantes, troopers and militiamen. Racial violence towards Native individuals was widespread all through American historical past. In 1863, for instance, the Every day Republican in Winona, Minnesota, featured this announcement: “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 following yr at Sand Creek in Colorado, a Union regiment massacred a peaceable Cheyenne and Arapaho village of principally ladies and youngsters — a few of Harjo’s ancestors amongst them. The troopers marched the mutilated physique elements of the deceased again to Denver, the place they have been displayed as warfare trophies in theaters and exhibition halls. Stays have been examined to evaluate and enhance the effectiveness of the weapons that killed these individuals. They have been additionally utilized in experiments designed to “prove” the scientific inferiority of indigenous individuals.

Because of this, Yohance Maqubela, the son of late civil rights activist Dick Gregory, considers the identify “Redskins” roughly analogous to “Strange Fruit.” Harjo has an analogous perspective: “We are talking about the most nightmarish stuff in the background of every single Native person,” she stated. “And we see that those kinds of attitudes are reflections of past actions, but they’re also prescient — they’re indicators of possible future actions.”

Satisfied by Harjo’s argument, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Attraction Board canceled the Redskins’s trademark in 2014. And round the similar time, Obama inspired the Washington football group to change its identify.

However in 2016, The Washington Submit launched a ballot claiming that 9 in 10 Native People didn’t discover the identify offensive. (The ballot continues to be typically criticized by Native activists.) In 2017, the Supreme Courtroom dominated in an unrelated case that the regulation towards disparagement in logos violated the First Modification, making Harjo’s authorized declare moot. Momentum died. Activists went again to the drafting board.

Earlier than the Texans recreation, the Redskins held an on-field ceremony to honor members of the Blackfeet Nation whose ancestor, Chief Two Weapons White Calf, served as the mannequin for the group emblem.

A youthful era is taking the marketing campaign in new instructions, with digital techniques and a renewed dedication to constructing coalitions with key constituencies akin to athletes, followers and native black communities to strain Washington group proprietor Dan Snyder and his sponsors.

Final yr, a gaggle of millennial activists organized a “culture jam,” placing out pretend press releases, web sites and logos suggesting that the group had modified its identify to “Redhawks.”

“A culture jam is using something that’s familiar in our culture, oftentimes a logo or a brand, and kind of hijacking it to deliver a message,” defined Rebecca Nagle of the Cherokee Nation, who ran the motion. Stories went viral, forcing Snyder and the staff to reply. “It proposed a solution,” Nagle stated. “Oftentimes we get stuck in this dead-end, but changing the name is not that big of a deal.”

Thus far, 2018 has been a quiet yr for the change-the-name marketing campaign, with activists unfold skinny and targeted elsewhere. As public strain subsides, Snyder and the workforce have mounted an aggressive public relations marketing campaign to reframe the team’s identify as honorific. Earlier than the Texans recreation, the Redskins held an on-field ceremony to honor members of the Blackfeet Nation, whose ancestor, Chief Two Weapons White Calf, served as the mannequin for the group emblem.

“Bruh.. they got Native Americans out here doing some heritage stuff,” an attendee with the deal with @_TheSalesman tweeted from the scene.

Individuals nonetheless don’t know or care

Since Harjo filed her lawsuit, the team’s identify has not been modified — however neither has its fortunes. The 1991-92 season was the final time the Redskins made it to the Tremendous Bowl.

And on Nov. 18, in a recreation with playoff implications, Washington couldn’t beat the Texans, who drove the ball deep into their territory a number of occasions and kicked a area aim to retake the lead, 23-21.

In the remaining minute of the recreation, McCoy led Washington on a stunted 20-yard drive simply previous the Indian head emblem at the 50-yard line. With eight seconds left, Washington tried a hopelessly lengthy 63-yard area aim — Dustin Hopkins’ kick sailed via the air however landed far shy of its mark, rolling to a feeble halt in the finish zone atop the first “s” in “Redskins.”

Again in the district, I caught a experience with Barbara Johnson, a 46-year-old fan and Lyft driver from a four-generation black household in Washington, D.C. Johnson grew up 5 minutes from the team’s previous RFK Stadium and has been a Redskins supporter all her life.

She didn’t understand the team’s identify was offensive until, a number of years in the past, considered one of her passengers, an aged Native lady, defined the origin of the time period.


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“Think about somebody taking your family member after they were killed and they want a nice burial for them, but they decide to peel the skin of their head off and just mock their family with it,” Johnson stated. “The Native Americans were here first. They’re due their respect.”

Johnson’s daughters stopped cheering for the Redskins due to the team’s troubling report on race — Washington was additionally the final NFL group to combine. Now they cheer for the Dallas Cowboys, and Johnson is contemplating switching allegiances. She believes Washington’s luck won’t change until the group does what in her view is the proper and respectful factor.

“Maybe we can get this name change,” she stated as she dropped me off in my Northwest D.C. neighborhood. “That would be nice.”


Julian Courageous NoiseCat is a correspondent for Actual America with Jorge Ramos, contributing editor at Canadian Geographic and freelance author whose work has appeared in The Guardian, The Nation, The Paris Assessment and lots of different publications. A proud member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen, he resides in Washington, D.C.