February 5, 2002
5:25 PM   Subscribe

People are reduced to cartoons says a Native American activist regarding sports teams with "Indian" mascots. The NFL's Redskins are dropping the Indian head from their helmets. Is this a sign they may one day consider changing the name? Maybe the designers of the Salt Lake City Olympic mascots can teach us Washingtonians something about honoring native traditions while respecting their wishes. (or maybe the SLC designs are just goofy. me, i just wanna be able to wear my team's logo without a crisis of conscience.)
posted by danOstuporStar (39 comments total)
Such as a crisis of conscience over being a weenie who'd sell out to political correctness?
posted by dissent at 5:30 PM on February 5, 2002

Just who you want to root for, the Washington Powder Hares.
posted by David Dark at 5:39 PM on February 5, 2002

At my old school, our mascot was the Redskins. The students formed a movement to change it, with voting and everything, and the alumni association threatened to withdraw scholarship funding if we did.

It was a dark day for progression.
posted by j.edwards at 5:43 PM on February 5, 2002

i think the new uniforms look nicer than the older versions. i dig the yellow stripes on the sleeves, which is similar to the design of the green bay packers and pittsburgh steelers uniforms. i like letters on the caps/helmets though, so a big "W" would have been cool, but hey. the arrow design is from the '60s, they say, and for some reason i prefer retro design in sports over the New! Flash! designs that some teams use.
posted by moz at 5:45 PM on February 5, 2002

It's interesting what is okay and what isn't in terms of naming teams after groups of people. Vikings seems okay, Chinamen not. Fighting Irish yes, Indians apparently no. Of course, I can see the reasons behind my examples now that I've typed them out. Anyway, did I have a point?
posted by Nothing at 5:46 PM on February 5, 2002

Not having a vested interest in the 'Skins, I think they should change their name. Being a former Trojan, and before that a Warrior (with a big Illini chief's headdress on our helmets) myself, its a little silly for fans of a team to identify with a group that is external to them. Why not use a name that's more descriptive of the fans or the team itself? (On the other hand, the Washington Insiders, Pols, or Senators don't really sound that fun or menacing. Either way, it's all just a big game of dress up for the fans.

If they're making the change for the purposes of PC-ness, why are they doing it only for home games? I can't imagine their worried about violent protests from locals. In fact, why would you ever change only the home uniforms, esp. if the design is as different as this one is? Is money spent on uniforms charged against their salary cap?

And no, the Chesapeake Watershed Region Indigenous Persons should not learn anything from the SLC mascots. They're godawful and scream "FOX KIDS!" at the top of their exaggeratedly swooping lungs.
posted by thebigpoop at 5:51 PM on February 5, 2002

Just to be factual: They aren't changing it to be PC. They will be wearing old-style uniforms at home games for all of next season, celebrating the 70th year of the franchise. Again: the helmet style is the way it USED to be, and not new.
posted by atsarazin at 5:56 PM on February 5, 2002

Progress is the day when a name or a title is used and no one gives a rats ass whether it's degrading or not. There will be no complaints, no movements to change it, no representative answering questions, because the name will hold no real value. It will simply be a tool for clarification, as it should be.
posted by dai at 6:02 PM on February 5, 2002

People are reduced to cartoons

The problem actually is quite the opposite: Cartoons are being extrapolated to people. Always a dangerous thing.
posted by luser at 6:07 PM on February 5, 2002

Spurrier is going to be so confused. Instead of looking out at the field and hating the guys with the spears on their heads [FSU], he'll be coaching them.
posted by schlyer at 6:24 PM on February 5, 2002

Maybe they should change their logo to this.
posted by Poagao at 6:40 PM on February 5, 2002

Poago- why should they? If, however, you made the beard a bit longer, the face a bit older, and threw a pickaxe over the shoulder, it *could* be a logo for the 49ers.

And it wouldn't bug me a bit.

Um, of course I'm not a 49ers fan, although I've liked the team well enough... [IE: I'm not a 49er basher.]
posted by dissent at 6:52 PM on February 5, 2002

Why don't people just stop participating in sports if they don't personally like the messages such sports communicate? It's what I did long ago. Let the people of apathy enjoy themselves. This is just an example of attempting political control over things that don't need it. It's another example of the societal infection called political correctness.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:10 PM on February 5, 2002

I would guess that it wouldn't bother you because it would then be portraying an association of people during an event rather than an entire race.

Why should they? What, do you think that perhaps that logo is racist and offensive for some reason?

Why should people who enjoy the sport have to give it up because others feel it necessary to taint it with terms like "Redskins"?
posted by Poagao at 7:15 PM on February 5, 2002

i have been interested in this issue since the 1983 super bowl when small group garnered a fair amount of media coverage protesting the nickname of my heroes. When the redskins' great defensive end charles mann was interviewed about the issue, his answer was simple: "it doesn't matter what i think of the issue, the real owners of the redskins name don't like it. that's enough for me." although it wasn't until 1991 redskins super bowl that i bought into this idea entirely, mann's words have stuck with me.

there are plenty of moral and logical reasons why the redskins should give up the name: the etymology of the name can be traced to bounty hunting; it has no relation to DC (besides a history to broken treaties)
posted by danOstuporStar at 7:15 PM on February 5, 2002

did i just post that? damn ... umm, more coming shortly ....
posted by danOstuporStar at 7:16 PM on February 5, 2002

i like the bullets.
posted by kliuless at 7:24 PM on February 5, 2002

... bounty hunting; ... no relation to dc; ... but ultimately, it seems to me that mann is right. i comes down to basic respect.

the vikings, the fighting irish--these are not issues because nobody is making an issue of it. perhaps you truly believe, dissent, that "whiteskins" would not be offensive to you. well, OK, if you say so.

but redskins is offensive to many (i have no data to say 'most') native americans. why not respect their wishes?
posted by danOstuporStar at 7:24 PM on February 5, 2002

"...the real owners of the redskins name don't like it. that's enough for me."

So who is the real owner of the Redskins name, and why don't they like it? Is it for the same reason many native americans don't like it?

Many of these names were chosen because they were fierce, or strong terms, that garnered respect. I live in a town that has a team that is the Braves - which is all about repect for a group of fearless people. Unfortunately, some people saw opportunity to bring attention to their organization by complaining about it. Thankfully, it hasn't changed... yet.

My middle school used to be the "Red Devils" until some baptist church complained that it was causing our children (think of the children) to worship satan... so they changed it to "Rebels" *ha-ha* and now it is something else, like "Red Uniforms."

People are stupid.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 7:36 PM on February 5, 2002

why not respect their wishes?

the answer, of course, is respect for the traditions of the team. i'm a lifelong burgandy & gold fan and i haven't come to this place easily. to answer your question, David Dark, i would like to root for the Redhawks. it's the solution Miami University adopted.

Redhawks is natural extension of the traditional colors and "feather" iconography. Nobody is asking team redskins to give up their history. Just to progress through it. (besides dan synder will make a killing selling the new jerseys ... and denver, the patriots, the ravens, tampa all had breakthrough seasons the year they significantly changed their uniforms.)

thanks for the link, Poagao. i knew MeFi wouldn't let me down in terms of uncovering new resources on the issue.
posted by danOstuporStar at 7:37 PM on February 5, 2002

Love the new uniforms.

You think there could be a Redskins thread without me commenting? Silly.
posted by owillis at 7:42 PM on February 5, 2002

Many of these names were chosen because they were fierce, or strong terms, that garnered respect.

i don't doubt this is the reason behind the names. but as bobby little bear states in the first article i linked:

The terms such as "Indian" and "Brave" are not terms Native People use to identify themselves. This is a foreign language and thus often has a different meaning to Natives. Sure one team holds their mascot high with pride but it is also the deliberate target of the opposing team who takes great pride in humiliating, defacing and degrading the mascot.
We realize teams were calling themselves by a name they perceive as good. But, we are saying it doesn't matter what non-Natives feel, we know from experience and from living inside this skin that it is insulting. Slavery was acceptable in this country, many would stand on soapboxes all day touting its great advantages to society and owners were "proud" of their slaves.

posted by danOstuporStar at 7:43 PM on February 5, 2002

Because, dano, why should I care how any offended feel about it? Why should it amount to a hill of beans? It's not intended to offend, it's not a calculated insult, there's no malice behind it. In fact, at worst, it's an off-handed compliment. I'm not going to let people who are looking for a way to be insulted spoil my day.

All these offended of various special interests... I never hear them agonizing over what would offend others. Unless those others are of special interests supporting them, of course.

If the Indians... oh! 'scuse me, Native Americans... want to sue over broken treaties, or gross federal mismanagement of their funds by the department of the interior... more power to them. Real issues there. Real injustices, that need to be addressed. But, dammit, it's descending to the level of an utter, whiny crybaby to pout over a team name. Get over it.
posted by dissent at 7:56 PM on February 5, 2002

I posted a link almost a year ago about this very topic, which was a source of great dissension at the high school where I work. BTW, the solution arrived at after many angst-filled meetings of students, their parents, alumni, other community members, administrators and the school board was to keep the Braves name but have no Indian mascot logo. It's still a sore point in the community.
posted by Lynsey at 8:18 PM on February 5, 2002

I dunno, I think there would be a big uproar if a sports team was named after, say, African-American slaves. How trivial would that be? But trivializing American Indians is OK? Uh huh.
posted by fleener at 8:29 PM on February 5, 2002

But trivializing American Indians is OK? Absolutly not! Same thing goes for Dolphins, Bears, Rams, and all the other awsome animals who have been exploited and trivialized by the filthy sports machine. And what about the Patriots? Cartoonizing our beloved Minutemen, as if they would have wanted to be associated with such monsterous exploiters.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:29 PM on February 5, 2002

If the Indians... oh! 'scuse me, Native Americans...

I'm from Nebraska. I've never met a single individual NA who prefered the term "Native American". Many don't care one way or the other, but some have actually corrected me (ie: "I'm an Indian"). They are no different than anyone who finds PC euphemism pretentious. (To be totally fair, most seem to prefer tribal designations: "I'm a Lakota", "I'm a Pawnee"). Generally, it's only the advocacy groups who object. I sort of compare it to the organized feminist groups who harp about terms like "mailman", while the real individual feminists care more about substantive issues (eg: equal pay, equitable credit legislation, etc.)


We're too damn thin-skinned and put a ridiculous premium on cosmetic niceties over genuine intent.

Am I going to hell because I still laugh out loud at P.J. O'Rourke's classic "Foreigner's Around the World" guide from National Lampoon? I don't believe a word of it (well, maybe the part about the French).
posted by RavinDave at 10:24 PM on February 5, 2002

In the early 80's, I used to remember seeing a Denny's-like restaurant chain called Sambo's. I'm glad it's gone, and that they changed their name to Seasons. I would feel the same way about the redskins. It's an old stereotype that has become a racial slur, and tradition or not, it's a sports team. Many sports teams before have shown tha they can handle a name change, a uniform color change, or even a venue change of moving across the country.

Change the name of the team already.
posted by mathowie at 12:48 AM on February 6, 2002

the answer, of course, is respect for the traditions of the team.

So institutionalised racism is okay in order to preserve the "traditions" of a multimillion dollar business?

Imagine if there were a team called the New York Hebes, whose colours were blue, white and silver and whose helmet symbol was the Star of David. As a symbol of affinity, fans wore exaggeratedly large blue and white yarmulkes with phony sidecurls attached and white and blue "scarves" with silver fringe and the words "New York" written in a chunky block font. When the team needed encouragement, fans would rock back and forth while chanting something sounding sorta like "barrack habah" over and over...

Even if the team names and the mascots themselves weren't offensive, the massive misuse of sacred parts of Indian culture and religion that go hand in hand with teams like the Redskins and Braves are incredibly inappropriate and offensive. Ceremonial headdresses, war paint, drums and chants all have significant meaning in Indian life, they aren't just neat stuff to wear and use to cheer for a team.
posted by Dreama at 6:17 AM on February 6, 2002

Such as a crisis of conscience over being a weenie who'd sell out to political correctness?

At the risk of troll-feeding or double-posting, this article seems appropriate.
posted by mac at 6:48 AM on February 6, 2002

Come on. It's a sports team. These guys get paid millions to play a freaking game. Tradition? Please. Spare me. Change the name.
posted by eamondaly at 7:47 AM on February 6, 2002

A nearby town's high school football team is the Rebels, with a Confederate soldier as the mascot and cheerleaders called Confederettes. There has been some talk in recent years about how non-PC this is, but as yet the name remains unchanged. The school and team is racially diverse BTW.
Nothing to get one's Irish up about, I would think.
posted by StOne at 7:58 AM on February 6, 2002

To be even more factual: The new uniforms are only for this season (the 70th anniversary) and only for home games. The away uniform will remain the same: white jerseys, burgundy pants, and red face logo on the helmet.

The chances that Dan Snyder changes the name and/ or "redface" logo are nill, unless maybe someone would be willing to pay for the naming rights.
posted by uftheory at 9:12 AM on February 6, 2002

i understand this uniform change is temporary/incomplete. the primary motivation is most likely to increase merchandise sales.

however, i *hope* this is a first small step towards divorcing the redskins organization from the most offensive portions of it's branding. i don't expect a name change to come overnight, but i feel the idea is gaining momentum and, perhaps irrationally, see good signs in this uniform change.
posted by danOstuporStar at 9:29 AM on February 6, 2002

The name is offensive and should be changed, but the problem with focusing on the name of a sports team makes it seem like that's the biggest problem faving American Indians, instead of third-world living conditions or epidemic alcoholism on reservations. For example, "on the Pine Ridge Reservation homelessness is at 30 percent and unemployment at 80 percent. Sixty percent of its residents live in substandard housing."

On the bright side, the Redskins are going to win the Super Bowl. As the Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots have shown, new uniforms = Super Bowl victory.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:49 AM on February 6, 2002

heh. people are defending the name 'redskins'.

would these same people defend a team called the 'darkies'?

i think not.
posted by jcterminal at 9:50 AM on February 6, 2002

What's the common ground here, people? Can we agree that the (Cleveland) Indians need to change their logo? If I'm discussing this issue with someone and they don't think that then I'm unlikely to keep listening to what they have to say about the name, because I'm going to conclude that they're an asshole. The word Indian at Cleveland is not absolutely offensive, but the logo is a shucking and jiving racial caricature. On the other hand, the word Redskin is clearly the worst side of the Washington team. I mean, if you want to argue about N.A. versus Indian, go ahead. But Redskin? That's a slur. For God's sake, would you call someone that to their face?
The best part is when folks on the wrong side of this issue pretend to be offended. "Why not change the name of the Boston Celtics?" they ask. Well, because no one is actually offended?

I think the whole thing is bullshit. I wish newspapers would step up to the plate and explain under what circumstances exactly they accept advertising from businesses that use offensive slurs or imagery? Would you or would you not (in a dream world, I would ask) accept an ad suggesting people come out and see the game and leer at the beautiful Carolina Cunts Cheerleaders?
posted by Wood at 9:58 AM on February 6, 2002

I think I've brought this up before, but I present you (from home state Idaho) with the gloriously tasteless Orofino Maniacs!

Why tasteless? Well, they deny any connection, of course, but it is interesting to note that Orofino houses the state of Idaho's mental asylum.

If you click the Orofino school link, incidentally, be prepared for creepy sidebar popup ads, including suggestive X10-like camera ads. Wha? I don't know. Look, it's a weird state on the whole.
posted by Skot at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2002

I think the whole idea of racist Indian names, is endemic to the way Americans and American gov't relate to Indians. "I mean Redskins isn't so bad, what the heck are people thinking?" But of course if the Alabama Niggers were playing the San Francisco Chinks there would be protest lines stretching for miles.

The fact is Indians are easy to ignore. Many stay on the reservations which for the most part are far away from 'normal' folk. An Indian living on the reservation has an average life-span of 56.5 years. The average income at the reservation I grew up on is $4,536.00. Unemployment rate at the same reservation is 62%. Alcholism is 75% among teens and adults. Diabetes rates are 12%. Indians that do speak up, are dealt with.

Most people at these reservations live in third-world conditions. For reservations that are out of the way, it's easy for Americans to ignore what's happening there. And for someone to ask me if I care if some man is calling his sports team Braves, Redskins, or whatever. Of course I care, but in the larger picture it's just dropping a grain of sand onto a large hill of injustices.

I am an Assiboine
posted by patrickje at 11:51 AM on February 6, 2002

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