Fresh off its pink campaign to bring awareness to breast cancer, the National Football League is now embarking on another uniform-related campaign to highlight and pay tribute to America’s military members ahead of Veterans Day. Last week, NFL players wore camouflage-pattered ribbon stickers on their helmets and coaches wore ribbons attached to their shirts.
Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, as Uni-Watch’s Paul Lukas noticed, didn’t wear the ribbon on his sweatshirt last week, but the team is paying tribute to the military by draping its official web site in camouflage, as this screen shot shows:
Paying tribute to the U.S. military is an easy decision for most of the NFL’s franchises, but for Washington, the decision would seem to be much more complicated. Native Americans have served in every major American war, and according to the U.S. Navy there are at least 190,000 Native American military veterans. But native tribes also spent decades fighting against the United States and were very nearly eradicated by the same military to which the NFL and subsequently the Washington Redskins are now paying tribute.
The Redskins, of course, haven’t acknowledged the long, complicated history the team’s namesake has with that military, much as they have refused to acknowledge much of the controversy (which now includes a lawsuit brought by Native Americans) surrounding the use of an offensive name and offensive imagery. Washington’s football franchise paying tribute to the U.S. military wouldn’t be controversial whatsoever if the team realized or acknowledged such facts. That the team doesn’t understand that moves like this will invite further controversy, though, seems yet another indication that neither the franchise nor the league understand that use of the name “Redskins” and the accompanying imagery don’t just represent a team name and a logo, but a people who have a deep-rooted and complicated history with our country.