The Washington Redskins can now add a top United Nations official to the list of prominent people who have criticized the team’s name.
James Anaya, a University of Arizona law professor and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, stopped short of calling on the team to change the name, but he said in a statement Friday that the team should consider that its continued use of “Redskins” is offensive to many Native Americans, Agence France-Presse reports:
“While I am aware that there are some divergent views on this issue, I urge the team owners to consider that the term ‘redskin’ for many is inextricably linked to a history of suffering and dispossession,” Anaya said in a statement.
“It is understood to be a pejorative and disparaging term that fails to respect and honour the historical and cultural legacy of the Native Americans in the US,” he said.
Anaya’s statement continued: “Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations… Private actors also have responsibilities independently of the States’ obligation to promote and protect human rights.”
The statement echoes many of the reasons prominent Native American groups like the National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation of New York have used to call for a name change. Those groups have said that “Redskins” is a “dictionary-defined slur” and that the use of Native American imagery and stereotypes in sports has harmful social and psychological effects on their communities. Twitter users have made recent attempts to draw attention to those problems as well, using hashtags like #NotYourMascot and #ChangeTheName.
Anaya had previously highlighted the negative effects Native American mascots can have in a 2012 UN report.
Representatives from Oneida and NCAI met with United Nations human rights officials earlier this year to discuss issues around the name, which has drawn criticism from top members of Congress, major civil rights groups, and President Obama.
Washington owner Daniel Snyder said last May that he would “NEVER” change the name, and the team and the NFL have rallied in support of it even as criticism mounts. In March, Snyder started the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, an organization he said would help address larger issues facing Native American communities but that was instantly criticized by members of Congress and top Native American leaders.
The Navajo Nation Council voted Thursday to condemn the name of the Washington Redskins, the Associated Press reports:
The Council’s committee of the whole voted 9-2 Thursday to oppose the name. The measure was sponsored by lawmaker Joshua Lavar Butler, who says the word can have negative psychological effects on American Indians. The statement of opposition also applies to what Butler says are disparaging references to American Indians in other professional sports franchises.