Change the ‘damn name!’ Rebrand Washington football

(Photo by Kolby KickingWoman, Indian Country Today)

Petition calls for the Washington football team to change its name and logo

“Change the name! Change the logo! Rebrand Washington football!”

On a brisk Saturday morning just outside Washington, D.C. at the team headquarters of the Washington football team, some 20 people gathered to deliver 1,884 signed petitions demanding the NFL team to change the name.

“Mr. Snyder continues to cling to a racial slur and a stereotype for a mascot and a name,” co-founder of Rebrand Washington Football Josh Silver said.

Rebrand Washington Football is a grassroots organization that was co-founded in 2015 by the trio of Silver, Ian Washburn and Bill Mosley who were all at one point fans of the team but recognized the team name and logo disparaged Natives.

In the five years since the organization began delivering petitions to the team, team owner Dan Snyder has yet to show up personally. Rather, two representatives from the team (one whom is Native), accept the petitions on his behalf.

Overall, 9,024 signatures have been collected by the organization since its founding.

In addition to the petitions, Rebrand Washington Football delivered a paper published by Silver, a letter addressed to Snyder personally and a book on the history of the team.

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Saturday was also the anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Washburn, who was once a third-generation season ticket holder, said racism continues to prevail even after winning World War II.

"Seventy-eight years ago my grandparents learned of the attack at Pearl Harbor while in the stands at Griffith Stadium,” Washburn said. “Despite victory in the 'war of all wars,’ genocide and racism prevail with the Washington football mascot."

Over the years a number of studies have been conducted that show the harm Native-themed mascots have on both Natives and non-Natives alike. Including one by the American Psychological Association calling for the retirement of all Native-themed mascots and another commissioned by the Oneida Nation specifically about the Washington football team.

Joe Gaines, Choctaw, offered a prayer at the beginning of the event and said he holds no ill will towards Dan Snyder but that the team name and logo dehumanizes Natives.

“We are not caricatures. We are not mascots. We’re not cartoons,” Gaines said. “Humanize me. I’m a human just like you.”

Amongst the group there were a number of signs, including one with the dictionary definition of the “R-word,” which has been deemed disparaging and offensive. Another one was an old newspaper ad from the 1800s that read, “The state reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every redskin sent to purgatory.”

Often referenced by supporters of the team are polls that have been conducted that state the majority of Natives aren’t offended by the team name. Yet, Mary Phillips, Omaha and Laguna Pueblo, said polls paid for by corporations with a clear result in mind equal disinformation.

She also took a jab at the team, saying Snyder and the team are in exile in their own home town, not only because of the team name but also because of the poor performance on the field.

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Group gathers for photo at the end of event (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman, Indian Country Today)

“Guess what? We don’t need a poll to tell us that. Especially when there are landscapes of empty seats on football Sundays in D.C.” Phillips said. “You can ask anyone, ‘What color does Sunday mean around here?’ Purple!,” she added in reference to the surging popularity of the Baltimore Ravens.

Washington has had five seasons with a record above .500 since 2000, making the playoffs just four times in that span.

It was a weekend of activism for the “Change the Name” movement, along with the delivery of the petitions, there was a protest of the team name outside of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin Sunday morning before the team’s game versus the Packers.

Anthony Tamez-Pochel, First Nations Cree and Sicangu Lakota, came all the way from Chicago for the event. As a former Center for Native American Youth Champion for Change, he hopes more Native youth get involved to meet the Native-themed mascots challenges head-on to, “protect our people.”

When asked what he would say to Dan Snyder if they ever met, Tamez-Pochel kept it short and sweet.

“Change the damn name, change the logo,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s time to listen to Indigenous peoples.”

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Kolby KickingWoman is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is Blackfeet/Gros Ventre from the great state of Montana and currently reports and lives in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Te ata
Te ata

I've said for years that they'll start having winning seasons again when they CHANGE THE NAME!!