Monday, February 11, 2013

"THE RED AND GOLD TEAM LED BY ROBERT GRIFFIN III": The WaPo's ombudsman has a few things to say:
“Every major national Native American organization has declared that the name of the pro football team in our nation’s capital is the most offensive thing native peoples can be called in the English language and has called for it to be changed,” [Suzan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee activist] said.

“It’s okay if others aren’t offended by it,” she added. “They should respect that we are offended and that this is something they can do something about — in our world where we can do little about most things, this is something we can actually do something to fix. They should care about it even a tiny bit because we care about it so much.”

Native Americans are not mascots or historical bygones to be imitated; they’re flesh-and-blood Americans, as much a part of the warp and weft of the living fabric of this country as George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.
added: Dave Zirin, also on-topic today: "In a league that’s 70 percent African-American yet couldn’t seem to find any coaches or executives of color to hire this off-season, the Redskins are also a reminder, as William Faulkner wrote, that 'The past is never dead. It’s not even past.'"


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  2. If you want to get into the legal nitty-gritty of the dispute, the whole case file is online ( The PTO has been punting for years on making a substantive decision on whether the mark is "immortal or scandalous," and it's now reaching the point where they can't really duck the issue much longer.

  3. The Pathetic Earthlin12:43 PM

    I prefer the moral courage of the NCAA on this: you cannot have a Native American mascot unless your team is good and/or profitable.

  4. I think what they should do is stop using the name spelled out. Refer to them in copy only as R------s or as [Expletive Deleted]. That might drive the team's PR and marketing team up the wall enough to get something done, because it would kill their SEO.

  5. I've always favored Kornheiser's solution: put a potato on the helmet.

  6. Dave S1:42 PM

    Though George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are also mascots.

  7. Kate F.1:50 PM

    I'm pretty familiar with this issue. I agree with Amy--the name of the Washington football team is such that I won't say it in conversation. It IS an expletive. Closer to home, our state Civil Rights Commission just filed a discrimination complaint with the Office of Civil Rights based on a slightly different take on the issue--that the use of American Indian Mascots impairs student learning, creating an unequal learning environment. As the complaint states:

    "Because there is now, for the first time, an objective showing that
    actual harm is resulting and that it disparately falls on American
    Indian students, there is no longer any need to question what the
    school, or what the "reasonable American Indian" thinks about the
    mascot," the filing argues.

  8. I may be imagining this, but evidently Dan Snyder registered a trademark for Washington Warriors, on the supposed basis that he might want to buy an Arena league team. It's not sufficient, but it would be an improvement.

  9. He can't get a registration until and unless he begins use. A quick search does suggest that Arena Football, Inc. applied to register WASHINGTON WARRIORS, as did what appears to be a Snyder entity, but all the applications are now dead. There's no question that the WARRIORS word mark would be fine--the question would be is the logo problematic apart from the word, which is a much tougher call.

  10. The case for x-naying names like the Chiefs, Indians, or Braves is a moral one only; I wouldn't think any of them rises to the level of immoral or scandalous. Still, it's 2013. For something that's horrifying to the people of the District, call them the "Washington Light Wintry Mix."

  11. Watts4:38 PM

    Are racial slurs (which is what Native Americans are saying it is - and a lot of non-Native Americans agree with that) not immoral or scandalous?

    Not being rhetorical - would be interested to see folks debate the semantic and legal implications of those words.

  12. The PTO has determined previously that "N***A" is immoral/scandalous, so that's the benchmark.

  13. Watts4:59 PM

    And it sounds like, to the people it's nominally referring to, it's a slur in the same vein as the n-word. Perhaps even more so, because it doesn't sound like any part of the community is adopting it in any way amongst themselves, at least not in the same way that some members of the African-American community will use the n-word or some members of the gay community will banter with derogatory terms used to describe them. It doesn't seem to me like Native Americans want to "reclaim" the word.

  14. MidwestAndrew5:04 PM

    Also, the Chiefs are named after "Chief" Bartle, a former Kansas City Mayor. Their logo is not offensive -- a simple arrowhead -- unlike the Indians' Chief Wahoo. Chief Wahoo and "Redskins" are offensive, but I have no problem with other Indian-related names so long as it doesn't devolve into caricature (cough, cough, Chief Wahoo).

  15. Kate F.6:52 PM

    I feel comfortable saying the Washington football team name is not a word people in a variety of Native communities are interested in "reclaiming." That and "squaw" are deeply, deeply offensive. It is in the same vein as the n-word.

    "Indian" on the other hand, while still debated within communities, has been claimed/re-claimed. See "ndn" or Much more preferred, however, is the name the people know themselves by, such as Anishinaabe or Haudenosaunee or Dine.

    Also, I'd like to see an Indian mascot that HASN'T "devolved into caricature." Caricature is, frankly, the definition of an Indian mascot.

  16. Thanks Matt, for the link to the papers.

    The main semantic argument posed by the defense is awful. Not even quite circular but just sleight-of-hand. Essentially: "Our use of 'Redskins' isn't insulting because it doesn't even refer to Native Americans but only to the franchise itself." Ceci n'est pas une pipe? Really??

  17. isaac_spaceman10:07 PM

    I know it's not what you mean, but the Seattle Seahawks' logo is an Indian logo that is not offensive and has not devolved into caricature (even though the people on whose art it is based would probably find the design simplistic and the colors incomprehensible).

  18. isaac_spaceman10:11 PM

    What are they talking about? The team logo is a picture of an Indian with red skin. Is that a coincidence? Hey, how did that Indian with red skin get on my Redskins logo? That is just weird.

  19. If we could take the semantic argument about the name seriously, which is all but impossible, then perhaps the logo might similarly be understood as an array of color representing only itself and the franchise. That's why Magritte jumped to mind. But I don't recall seeing the no-referent-but-the-franchise argument in the brief for the logo. For the logo all I recall was discussion of the "respectful" this or "stylized" that... Admittedly, I was skimming.