Daniel Horner | Student Writer
The American Football team, which is one of the National Football League’s most storied and successful franchises, has finally dropped their historically controversial name and logo they adopted in 1933.
Just this Monday, the Washington Redskins released a statement, announcing that further to the July 3rd decision to review the team’s name, that, “We are announcing that we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review.”
The review in question was a direct response to businesses and partners associated with the side publicly voicing their concerns over the logo and name. Eighty-seven various stakeholders and investors added their signatures to three letters to major sponsors Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo, stating that they would discontinue their relationships with the team unless it dropped the contentious name. That same day, FedEx called for the team to change its name, while Nike went one step further and removed the Washington Redskins name and all team apparel from their website.
It is safe to say that the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the nationwide protests across the United States following the death of George Floyd accelerated the speed at which the now former Washington Redskins went about dropping their team name and logo. But, how has such a controversial name lasted this long?
The term “redskin”, was used by some Native Americans to identify each other after the mid-eighteenth century, differentiating between native, white and black peoples. In its worse sense however, the use of the term referring to natives is the equivalent of using a racial slur, and the word “redskin”, has been used in relation to the bounty of Indians, thus the nickname has garnered a reputation for being offensive and dehumanising. For decades civil rights activists have protested against the continued use of the name. The National Congress of American Indians’ 2018 resolution denounced the name as: “offensive and hurtful to American Indian and Alaska Native people… the R-word is not a term of honour or respect, but rather, a term that still connotes racism and genocide for Native peoples.”
The NFL team’s owner Daniel Snyder has previously sought to evade criticism by expressing the view that some natives do not deem the term offensive. In addition, there is a minority view that the use of the name represents a celebration of Native American history and culture, rather than vilifying them. Native American culture has long been embedded into sporting teams, and the attention now turns to the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians and Chicago Blackhawks to see how far they will go in the same direction. For American sporting franchises, branding is vitally important for business purposes but, it seems it can only be for so long that they can avoid the issue that has followed those teams that incorporate Native American names and images into their brand.
In all, the culmination of decades of controversy surrounding the team name of the now former Washington Redskins has finally reached its conclusion. A new chapter dawns for the Washington football team, Native Americans, American sports and the United States as a whole.