Maybe you heard about it: a video entitled “Proud to Be” released by the National Congress of American Indians. In the video, images of Native Americans representing a wide variety of cultures and tribes were shown while the narrator listed adjectives used to describe Native Americans. At the end, an image of the Washington Redskins’s helmet was shown, described as the one thing Native Americans don’t call themselves. This ad was simply the latest push from Native American groups to abolish what they view as derogatory team names. There are several images to which these groups—the National Congress of American Indians is one of many—vehemently object, including the logos for the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves.
The Washington Redskins changed their name in the 1933; previously, they had been the Boston Braves, but their owner, George Preston Marshall, wanted to distinguish them from the other Braves baseball team. Marshall claimed to have Sioux heritage in his justification of the name, a claim which is today contested by many. The name has stuck for eighty years since, despite numerous movements to change it. Those who object to the name say that Redskin is a derogatory racial slur seen quite frequently in the late 19th and early 20th century. Even if it were not a racial slur, naming a team after any ethnic group seems like a questionable, potentially problematic move. Those who support the use of the name cite the positive qualities associated with the name, like courage, but the history of the term has often had far more negative than positive connotations. Some Native Americans do support the continued use of the name, but there are many who do not, and the pain caused for those who object far outweighs the pride of those who do support it.