In the image above, you are seeing the helmet and attendant logo of the Whiteskins, a fictional team based on the Washington Redskins. It is the work of a man named Brittain Peck, who’s created a project to draw attention to the “offensive nature of stereotypical American Indian sports mascots and the need to change them,” as he wrote to the website Uni-Watch.com.
Uni-Watch.com, a website that functions, in their words, as a “media project that deconstructs the finer points of sports uniforms in obsessive and excruciating detail,” received this design, and the note from Peck, after publishing a series of pieces looking at the mascot issue. Here is how they framed the question in a recent post: “As the question of using Native American imagery continues to rattle around the corners of the sports world, many people have opinions but few (aside from the NCAA and the North Dakotalegislature) bother to act on them. So there’s a lot of bloviating and posturing but not much more than that.”
So Uni Watch did something about it—they posted the aforementioned Peck’s project on their site. What began as a fantasy football team called the Whiteskins has become a full-blown project. As Uni-Watch did on their site, we’ll let Peck explain it himself:
This past NFL season I created a fantasy football team called the Whiteskins. It was intended as a satirical approach to drawing attention to the offensive nature of stereotypical American Indian sports mascots and the need to change them.
The “team” has since grown into a project in which I have committed to challenging the use of culturally offensive mascots by spreading our message via the sale of Whiteskins merchandise. More importantly, the proceeds from these sales are donated to organizations working for the benefit of Native American communities, with a focus on encouraging sports participation among Native youth.
I don’t want the Whiteskins’ message to just be negative — “You shouldn’t do that” or “Oh, how dare you” — so I have already begun preparing proposed logos, names, and mascot changes for other professional sports teams that currently use Native American imagery names and imagery in their branding and team culture. I’m not ready to show you those yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I have them ready.
Last Sunday, Uni-Watch ran a naming contest for the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins. Once the votes are in and tallied, Uni-Watch will then design a new logo and uniform for each team. If you’re interested, we suggest you click here and place your vote.
Some of the choices to rename the Indians include the Municipals, Lakers, Foresters, and Bulldogs. The Redskins’ new name choices include the Insiders, the Potomacs and the Federals.
They also link to a well known article from a decade ago, in which a Sports Illustrated poll found that the majority of American Indians were not offended by Indian nicknames and mascots. One wonders, however, how attitudes have changed since then.
We suggest you read the full Uni-Watch.com article here (the author of the post, Paul Lukas, describes his own burgeoning desire to better understand American Indian history) for insight into how non-Natives view this debate. There are many non-Native who of course don’t care, but there’s also a growing number, like Lukas, who find themselves caring more and more as they begin to educate themselves about, and therefore better identify with, American Indians.