How to Tell If a Sports Team Name Is Racist

The Washington football team used to be called the Washington Redskins. The now discarded talisman existed for almost a century – from 1933 to the beginning of this year. The Redskins moniker has finally come to an end, but it took decades of criticism and campaigning from indigenous activists for that to happen. Their efforts ultimately changed the conversation; Prior to the change, recent media reports consistently urged the team to develop a culture of frivolous racism. For a long time , however, the organization’s corporate property met protests with seeming indifference .

The fight continued until finally there was a change, perhaps causing something of a domino effect: in 2018, again only after decades of activity , Major League Baseball Cleveland Indians announced the resignation of Wahu’s main mascot, removing the caricature of the Native American … which first appeared in 1948, thanks to his uniform and merchandise. Two years later, the team announced plans to drop their name ; after the 2021 season, they will no longer be Indians.

A recent announcement raises the question: could there be the following other commands? And what exactly makes the command change its name? Could the leaders of Kansas City, Atlanta Braves, or even Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys have met a similar fate? Sports fans sometimes claim that these names don’t matter much, or even that they actually honor the heritage and history of the cultures that inspired them , but in fact the debate is about broader issues of injustice that have plagued society for much longer than professional sports. … was near.

Some teams perpetuate racist stereotypes

Have you ever been to a Kansas City Chiefs game? Under normal circumstances, you’ll probably find 76,000 people singing in unison, with thetomahawkbattle songbouncing off the walls. Some may be wearing hats and drinking beer, but you will probably have a hard time finding an indigenous person in the stands and have fun seeing this madness as a massive celebration of Native American culture.

Activists have long argued that what you are seeing is not the worship of Native American traditions, but rather the appropriation of culture and the destruction of a genocidal campaign to destroy it. As you know, the chiefs open each game with a trot on a horse named “Warpaint” with a cheerleader on his back. A ceremonial drum is then played just before the game starts. These empty lifts from real indigenous culture are offensive to some indigenous people. Vincent Schilling, a Native American journalist, said this in February in an interview with CNN : “My grandmother could not even tell who she really was, but can they create a stereotype and tell me that it will be respect for me?”

Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and CEO of the advocacy group IllumiNative, did not back down from denouncing the Washington Redskins in an interview with NPR earlier this year:

The origin of this name is rooted in murder, violence, genocide and hatred … it is a vocabulary-defined racial insult, period.

And yes, the Redskins were a particularly egregious example. Vox points out that the National Congress of the American Indian said in a 2013 report that “by the early 20th century, [Redskins] had become a term meant to belittle and denote inferiority and cruelty in American culture.”

Other professional sports organizations, such as the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League, go unnoticed, perhaps because they are less shocking in their portrayal of Native American stereotypes. However, this may start to change. Mike Lewis, professor of marketing at Emory University, told NPR: “[Atlanta] Braves and the Blackhawks don’t take much criticism for any reason. But at this point, I think all kinds of team names come into play. “

How to know if your team name needs to be changed

Typically, if your team name is causing the ire of traditionally marginalized groups simply because of its existence, then it’s time to change it. Some draw parallels to recent moves to remove Confederate names and symbols from schools and cities in the south , a debate that became particularly noticeable during the anti-racist protests in summer 2020, but given the struggle it took to get to this point, there are suggestions that other, less overtly racist team names may soon follow suit and seem exaggerated. The Dallas soccer team’s name, “The Cowboys,” does tie in with a troubled period in history , but doesn’t quite represent the egregious stereotype of a marginalized group; rather, it offers an unbridled image of masculinity and American heroism. Yes, the Minnesota Vikings owe their name to a marauding group of plundering warriors , but the actual history of the Vikings is not so integral part of American history as to be so offensive.

However, if your team makes a fall to the former camp, relying on stereotypes of marginalized groups, there is nothing wrong with advocating a name change. When all is said and done, you love the game, not the branding and merchandise, especially if the team mascot is deeply rooted in the pain and suffering of others.


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