Verlin Deer In Water, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma shows his t-shirt during an interview in Washington, Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, calling for the Washington Redskins NFL football team to change its name, prior to the start of the Oneida Indian Nation’s Change the Mascot symposium. During an interview, President Barack Obama suggested that the owner of the Washington Redskins football team consider changing its name because, the president said, the current name offends “a sizable group of people.” (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
On Tuesday, the Washington D.C. City Council joined a growing consensus of supporters who want the capital’s NFL team to change its name by approving a resolution supporting such a move.
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Lead by council member David Grosso (I-At Large) who first introduced the name-change resolution in May, the council overwhelmingly made their voice clear that “Redskins” is not an appropriate name for a modern-day football team.
“Native Americans throughout the country consider the term ‘redskin’ a racially derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African-Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos,” Grosso said in a speech. “Enough is enough.”
Ten out of the 13 council members voted “Yes” in favor of the measure, while two were absent during the vote, according to CNN. One council member, Yvette Alexander, voted present. No one voted against the measure.
It is a development that a spokesperson for the Oneida Indian Nation calls a “huge shift” towards growing support for a name change.
“At this point, you have civil rights organizations, religious leaders, Native American governments and groups, members of Congress from both parties and even the President who has come out and said that this offensive, racial slur should be retired as the name for the Washington football team,” the spokesperson told NewsOne. “The action taken by the D.C. Council is an important statement and they are really adding their voices to a growing chorus who is insisting that this name be changed.”
One of the high-profile members of Congress to speak out against the name is D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
“I don’t see how I can spend all my time as a black woman and then use a derogatory term when it comes to another ethnic group,” she said on WJLA back in April. “I would like to hear the argument for holding on to that name. I hope our team lives up to the admiration to which they are held all over this region and all over this country by just ditching the name.”
One particular argument being used by the right is that Snyder owns the team and can do what he choose. Right-wing commentator Armstrong Williams calls the pressure to change the name “political correctness” and decries the “pressure” against Snyder as seen on the “NewsOne Now With Roland Martin” show on TV One:
While the council vote may draw more intense scrutiny on Washington Redskins‘ owner Daniel Snyder, it may not have much impact on whether he will bend to public pressure. Just last month, Snyder sent a letter to season ticket holders defending the name, calling it “a badge of honor.”
And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly is not pressuring Snyder to change his team’s name, according to the Washington Post. Another issue slowing a name change is that there seems to be a passive acceptance of marginalizing American Indians, as I previously discussed in a recent op-ed.
Despite numerous hurdles, name-change advocates are not relenting. A small group of name-change protesters made their voices heard outside of the Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, when the Washington Redskins visited the Broncos last week.
“The name ‘redskin’ is not anything of honor. It’s to remind us of how our ancestors were treated, how we were butchered, how our skin was taken to cover books,” Gerald Montour, one of the protesters, said.
Over the past several decades, the number of high schools, universities and professional teams using mascots has dropped from more than 3,000 to roughly 1,000. Though there are at least 11 who call themselves the “Savages.”