After Chief Wahoo’s Demise, Activist Group Calls on Redskins to Follow Suit

AP Carolyn Kaster
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Monday was a big day for activist groups working to end the practice of using Native American nicknames for sports teams.

The day began with news that Major League Baseball would force the Cleveland Indians to stop using their “Chief Wahoo” logo on their uniforms. However, not surprisingly, they didn’t stop there.

After applauding the Cleveland Indians for dropping their “hurtful” nickname, the Change the Mascot campaign focused their attention on the Washington Redskins.

Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter, delivered a statement:

The Cleveland baseball team has rightly recognized that Native Americans do not deserve to be denigrated as cartoon mascots, and the team’s move is a reflection of a grassroots movement that has pressed sports franchises to respect Native people.

Cleveland’s decision should finally compel the Washington football team to make the same honorable decision. For too long, people of color have been stereotyped with these kinds of hurtful symbols — and no symbol is more hurtful than the football team in the nation’s capital using a dictionary- defined racial slur as its team name. Washington Owner Dan Snyder needs to look at Cleveland’s move and then look in the mirror and ask whether he wants to be forever known as the most famous purveyor of bigotry in modern sports, or if he wants to finally stand on the right side of history and change his team’s name. We hope he chooses the latter.

The Change the Mascot campaign has been leading the fight to force the Redskins to change their name, for several years. However, any attempt to force that change will be complicated by several factors. First, Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder has remained steadfast in his refusal to change the name. Secondly, the movement to force the Redskins name change doesn’t even enjoy widespread support inside the Native American community. A 2016 Washington Post poll found that 90 percent of Native Americans are not offended by the Redskins name, and don’t consider it a slur.

Further complicating matters for the Change the Mascot campaign, last week the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated prior decisions which had vacated the Redskins trademark on the grounds that it was disparaging to Native Americans.

The Redskins did not respond to ESPN’s attempt to reach out for comment.

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