The Washington Redskins team name is a symbol of centuries of abuse faced by Native Americans, a United Nations human rights expert said Friday, without calling formally for it to be axed.
James Anaya, a University of Arizona law professor who oversees global rights of indigenous peoples at the UN, said that the National Football League team’s name was deeply wrongheaded.
“While I am aware that there are some divergent views on this issue, I urge the team owners to consider that the term ‘redskin’ for many is inextricably linked to a history of suffering and dispossession,” Anaya said in a statement.
“It is understood to be a pejorative and disparaging term that fails to respect and honour the historical and cultural legacy of the Native Americans in the US,” he said.
The team owners have insisted that the eight-decade-old name honours Native Americans, and have created a foundation to work with the indigenous community.
In a report two years ago, Anaya condemned the continued use of what he said were stereotypes of Native Americans, blaming them for obscuring reality and keeping alive racist attitudes.
Anaya paid particular attention to sports teams, media caricatures and even mainstream education.
“Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information,” Anaya said Friday, quoting from the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
While it is up to governments to apply human rights rules, private businesses such as sports teams, also bear responsibility for doing so, he said.