The Change the Mascot campaign on Monday applauded the Cleveland Indians for agreeing to remove the Chief Wahoo logo from their uniforms in 2019 and challenged the NFL’s Washington Redskins to discontinue the use of their own “hurtful” nickname.
“The Cleveland baseball team has rightly recognized that Native Americans do not deserve to be denigrated as cartoon mascots, and the team’s move is a reflection of a grassroots movement that has pressed sports franchises to respect Native people,” Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter, who is the leader of the campaign, said in a statement.
“Cleveland’s decision should finally compel the Washington football team to make the same honorable decision. For too long, people of color have been stereotyped with these kinds of hurtful symbols — and no symbol is more hurtful than the football team in the nation’s capital using a dictionary- defined racial slur as its team name. Washington Owner Dan Snyder needs to look at Cleveland’s move and then look in the mirror and ask whether he wants to be forever known as the most famous purveyor of bigotry in modern sports, or if he wants to finally stand on the right side of history and change his team’s name. We hope he chooses the latter.”
The Change the Mascot campaign has been a long-standing critic of the Redskins’ name and describes itself as “a grassroots campaign that works to educate the public about the damaging effects on Native Americans arising from the continued use of the R-word.”
The Redskins declined comment when contacted by ESPN.
Snyder has resisted calls to change his team’s nickname and logo and got a boost in a trademark fight last year when the Supreme Court ruled that a trademark law barring disparaging terms infringes on free speech rights.
A Washington Post poll in 2016 found that 90 percent of Native Americans aren’t offended by the Redskins’ nickname and an overwhelming majority consider it an unimportant issue.
“The Washington Redskins team, our fans and community have always believed our name represents honor, respect and pride. Today’s Washington Post polling shows Native Americans agree,” Snyder said in a statement at the time. “We are gratified by this overwhelming support from the Native American community, and the team will proudly carry the Redskins name.”
Team president Bruce Allen said in 2015 that Washington would not change the name even if it helped them secure a new stadium in the District of Columbia. The Redskins are looking for a new stadium site, though their lease is not up until 2027.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has consistently defended the Redskins’ nickname. In the wake of the Indians’ decision Monday, he is likely to be asked again about his stance at a scheduled news conference Wednesday in Minneapolis as part of Super Bowl LII festivities.