In 1940, the Chicago Bears slaughtered the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the NFL championship game. The team looks to avoid any such lopsided outcome on the debate over the franchise’s logo and name by launching “Redskins Facts,” a website advertised on Sports Illustrated and other popular internet haunts.
“When you think of ‘Washington Redskins,'” Wade Colliflower of the Chippewa Cree tribe says in a Redskins Facts video testimonial, “you think of RGIII. You don’t think of a racist remark.” Colliflower, who says he’s never been called a “redskin,” dubs the team name a “positive term…honoring Native Americans.”
The pushback site points out that Sitting Bull and Tecumseh used the term “redskin,” high school teams on Indian reservations in Arizona and Washington name their football teams “Redskins,” and Native Americans helped in the creation of the distinctive logo currently used on team helmets. The site holds up a 2014 Associated Press poll that found that 83 percent of Americans surveyed weren’t offended by the term, and earlier surveys demonstrating that the overwhelming majority of Native Americans aren’t bothered by it, either.
Redskins alumni involved in the project include former receiver Gary Clark, tight end Chris Cooley, and kicker Mark Moseley. Along with a new team foundation purchasing backhoes, winter coats, playgrounds, and iPads for tribes in North America, the site appears as evidence that owner Dan Snyder meant it when he said the name stays. “We’ll never change the name,” Snyder told USA Today last year. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
But the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, as well as fifty sitting U.S. senators, deem the name derogatory and racist. The football nickname has become a political football. “They’ve never asked Native Americans,” Chippewa Wade Colliflower counters on RedskinsFacts.com. “It’s somebody else who knows nothing about us trying to speak for us. It’s kind of an insult.”