The Cleveland Indians. The Atlanta Braves.The Florida State Seminoles. The Chicago Blackhawks. And last, but not least, the Washington Redskins.
These are all athletic team names ranging from baseball to ice hockey that utilize Native American imagery in their titles. Yet, it is only the Washington Redskins, a football team, who has seen the brunt of criticism centric to the recent concerns of cultural appropriation in the media. So why are the Redskins in particular feeling the heat of controversy? It’s because they've been chosen to be made an example — and their title is the most offensive of all. It’s an actual derogatory term not far off from the big N one.
It certainly isn't the first time the Redskins have received flack from Native Americans--there’s a lengthy history that escalated in 2009 and sees a continuation today. The five plaintiffs involved must now show proof to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Court "the name 'Washington Redskins' was disparaging to a significant population of American Indians back when the team was granted the trademarks from 1967 to 1990," according to the Associated Press.
Bruce Allen, the general manager of the Redskins, was quoted as not finding the name offensive in the least. He said, “We represent an iconic sports franchise that’s 81 years old, that involves millions of fans worldwide, that has thousands of alumni. It’s ludicrous to think in any way that we’re trying to upset anybody ... There’s nothing that we feel that is offensive, and we’re proud of our history. To suggest that players and coaches and fans are thinking any other way, it doesn't make sense.”
Except, it does.
While it is understandable the Redskins management are afraid of and probably would lose money with a name and logo change, the fact of the matter is that the word “redskin” in itself holds negative connotations — as racist slang presented onto Natives by the proverbial White Man to the act of scalping Natives by the proverbial White Man. To think otherwise, or claim to not understand the basics as to why 9 % of Native Americans found the name and logo offensive is a show of ignorance. Many have used the minority number of a study released years ago as a counterargument to dismiss backlash, which further promotes ignorance. The cultural appropriation behind it all makes the issue of the Redskins, and other teams in a domino sense, thick waters to navigate. It is a battle between a persistent minority and dominant majority.
A victory in this round of social justice by the Native American plaintiffs against the Redskins has the possibility of inciting change in other sports teams and fueling the desire of Native American minorities to challenge the tide of the status quo.