Native American Nicknames: Should The Redskins Change Their Name?

By Joshua Coffee
February 20, 2013 10:04 pm
2,881 Views 22 Comments

In these times, being politically correct matters to some people.  To others, they could care less.  How do we determine what’s right and wrong?  We know some things are just wrong, like murder and other crimes.  But, what’s in a name? 

There are nicknames for sports teams out there that some people find offensive, and then there are those people who don’t find it offensive at all.  The NCAA has been cracking down on Native American nicknames that they deem offensive and they use a double standard by doing it. 

I’m going to comment on what I believe is a double standard by the NCAA.  I am also going to give the pros and cons of why the Washington Redskins should or shouldn’t change their nickname.  I am not writing this article to be offensive.  I’m writing it because in my mind I know the true meaning of the nickname.

History of the Washington Redskins

The Boston Braves were founded in 1932 and then changed their name to the Redskins in 1933.  Four years later, they moved to Washington, D.C. 

The Washington Redskins have a deep history.  They’ve won 13 division championships, made the playoffs 23 times, played in five Super Bowls and winning a total of five NFL Championships; including three Super Bowls.

They have had some great players Sammy Baugh, Sonny Jurgensen, Charley Taylor, Russ Grimm, Darrell Green and John Riggins.  The Redskins have also had some great coaches like Joe Gibbs, George Allen and Vince Lombardi.

For 80 years now, they have been known as the Redskins.  So, why change it now?

In 1997, the Washington Bullets of the NBA changed their nickname to the Wizards due to the owner feeling uncomfortable using the Bullets name due to gun violence in the District.  But that didn’t mean that the crime rate dropped because of the name change.

In 1999 the NAACP called for an end to the use of Native American names, images, and mascots.  They claimed that the use of these nicknames is insensitive and they violate anti-discrimination laws.

NCAA use and rule changes

Some schools in the NCAA have chosen to change their names on their own, like Marquette University who changed it from Warriors to the Golden Eagles and St. John’s University from Redmen to Red Storm, Miami University of Ohio changed their nickname from Redskins to Redhawks.

The University of Iowa has refused to schedule teams outside of the Big Ten with Native American mascots.  I find this ironic because Iowa’s nickname is the Hawkeyes, which has native origins. However the teams used a hawk mascot rather than a Native American.

One schools name that was named hostel was the Central Michigan University Chippewas.  However, the name was removed from the list because the Chippewa Tribal Nation supported the nickname. 

In 2005 the NCAA asked a total of 31 schools to re-evaluate their nicknames.  The Arkansas State Indians changed their name to the Red Wolves and the University of Louisiana at Monroe changed theirs from Indians to Warhawks.


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Previous Comments (22)

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2 years ago
Interesting take on a delicate topic, Joshua. Nice work.
2 years ago
Great story, Joshua. Washington needs a new team name at the very least, even if they don't change the logo. It's too bad the NFL won't step up even marginally as much as the meddlesome NCAA—which oversteps and has much bigger problems it has ignored.

I’m of majority Irish descent and used to make the same argument regarding Notre Dame’s mascot. The difference is people of Irish descent are well represented at Notre Dame and embraced the “Fighting Irish” moniker that was originally intended to be a derogatory slur by rivals—Michigan, I think. Therefore it wouldn’t matter if you or I approved or disapproved of their mascot because there are enough Irish in the student body and faculty to justify its usage if that’s what they want. North Dakota—and any other NCAA school that had or has an American Indian mascot—cannot possibly claim the same representation within their respective institutions. That’s why I agree those schools should have to receive the blessing of the people they claim to represent.
2 years ago
No, the name is an honor to the native americans this pc garbage is going to far
2 years ago
I appreciate everyone's feedback, even if I don't agree with it. However, it's not about being politically correct, it's about what's right and wrong.
2 years ago

Washington Redskins, Stanford Indians, whatever; policital correctness has gone overboard! If you really want to be politically correct then stop calling Christmas the Holiday Season! If it wasn't for Christ there would be no Holiday, besides its an event that pertains to Christians and if the remainder of the World finds they want the name changed so they can participate then let them deal with it!
2 years ago

Oh Michael, you are a sad person. Why has political correctness gone overboard? Is it because your conservative values are so old fashion that you're blind to the real problems in the world. Cry me a river. Oh it needs to Christian Correctness, I get it. How about you stop using hate and hiding behind your bible. Do you honestly think this article has anything to do with Christmas or Christ. Maybe you didn't read it, maybe you can't read at all. Do you honestly believe that Christ would be ok with people like you arguing in his name? It's people like you who give Christians a bad name. I'll pray for you.
2 years ago
Very well written Joshua and nice info about the beginnings of the team. I believe it's time for a nickname change in this instance. This isn't the case of dealing with the sensibilities of a tribe. Redskins is a derogatory term for the whole of Native American people.
2 years ago
Yes Joshua this is all about political correctness I am of Italian and Irish decent but it is not considered politically incorrect to use derogatory slang or names when referring to them, why is that, wasn't there a period in American and world history when those nationalities where mistreated & slighted just like every other race. Its about today not the past we need to deal with today not 10 or 50 or 100 or however many years ago. We need to just be Americans no "Native Americans" or "African Americans" or "Irish Americans" like any i am very proud of my heritage but I am also Proud to be an American the best country in the world. We are not who out forefathers where we are just American more no less
2 years ago

So if the New York Mets were the New York Wops, you wouldn't care? Or the Chicago Potato Eaters? It's easy for you to say because you're a of white European ancestry. The world is about change and some times change is necessary. Even if it burdens you. But seriously, how does it honestly effect you if the Redskins change their name or not? Are you going to lose sleep over it? If so, I feel sorry for you.
2 years ago

"The U.S. is not the greatest country in the world. We're seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, No. 4 in labor force, and No. 4 in exports. ... So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don't know WTF you're talking about."
2 years ago
I think it's funny that people still defend the name and how full of hate our country is to one another as well as other people, countries and religion. I'm proud to be an American too, but we still have along way to go before the people can call themselves great. Our country is awesome, but people who think political incorrectness is being able to call someone an insulting name are just plain ignorant. WAKE UP!!!
2 years ago
The Redskins name honors Native Americans???? Seriously?
2 years ago
Personally i would not lose sleep if their was name changed. but i find your comparison laughable lets see i am called a white man when i am hardly white even in areas that never see the sun it is simply a term not an insult or slight so it is okay to say because i am of European decent. It doesn't matter where our forefathers are from. I applaud your manner in doing this but i think we are all a tad to oversensitive and focusing on things that neither matter or effect what is truly import. Your health well being and that of your loved ones, we (as a society) have lost focus of that. We are more focused on things like this and not things that are truly wrong in our society. Compared to the name of an athletic team shouldn't the homeless, mentally ill etc.., be the things we are striving to correct?
2 years ago

The comment about you not losing sleep was not written by me. Just so you know. Neither were the comparisons to you being called a white man.

Well, I agree that we need to strive to be working towards better things and you're completely right about that. The problem with the United States is that there is nothing united about us. We have been split for decades. My article wasn't to say whether the name should be changed, it was just to show awareness that it is an issue to some people. No matter what happens with any issue like this, not everyone is going to be happy about it. So if they end up changing the nickname, then so be it. If not, then oh well. Either way someone won't like the outcome. I just wanted to try to see it from both sides.

I love North Dakota hockey and I was not happy that they had to remove the Fighting Sioux nickname.

I respect your opinion to the fullest and understand your point of view.
2 years ago

Congrats on sparking such a lively debate Joshua. As a Denver native and Minnesota grad I do not love North Dakota hockey, but I’m sure you can forgive me.

I’m not surprised the NCAA was delighted to separate North Dakota from their mascot due to its fragile sensibilities, but it’s not like the Fighting Sioux nickname isn’t accurate. It doesn’t take much research to discover the Sioux Nation—especially the Lakota—weren’t the benevolent sweethearts depicted in Dances with Wolves.

I could see getting upset over the “Fighting Cherokee,” for example, but the Sioux? No way. Too bad the tribal stalemate tipped in the NCAA’s favor, because they’ve tipped their own bigoted hand by trying to lump all American Indian tribes and nations into one neat little homogeneous box.
2 years ago
Washington's logo is an admirable and iconic depiction, but the "Redskins" moniker is reprehensible.

Chris Matthews and Rush Limbaugh would love to see this debate break down so predictably in a liberal versus conservative squawk session. But this IS the best country in the world because we can turn those chuckleheads off and think for ourselves.

The “Gates Test” asks if there were no barriers to entry or exit across any border in the world where would the majority end up. I’d take any and all bets against the USA and I’d be livin’ like Bill Gates by the time I collected all the winnings.
2 years ago
i think it's too late to change the name of the redskins or it may not be too late but because there hasn't been a huge number of protests for the last 80 years to have the redskins name changed i'm not sure it will be changed. However, i think if every person who runs the sports franchises and school teams had done their research and were taught about where the names redskins, seminoles, indians, and chiefs came from and originated there would not be an issue of native american nicknames on teams today.
2 years ago
Etymology, Redskins is now a football team not a disparaging remark about Native Americans. The meaning of the word has changed through use.
2 years ago
I'm so sick and tired of political correctness and the smug, stupid liberal speech police I can't stand it. Leave the Redskins alone, morons.
2 years ago
You know what? I spoke too soon. Since they represent Washington DC, maybe the Redskins do need a name change. How about the Washington Thieves or the Washington Murderers or the Washington Pond Scum? Any of those would be appropriate. And for you who think Redskins is an honor to the Indians, it really needs to be changed since Washington DC honors nothing or no one except the grandstanding thieves and racists who make up the ruling class of the that cesspool of a city.
2 years ago

2 years ago
Good work. I must say that was pretty impressive.

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