The two Native American groups that ran an organized campaign against the name of Washington’s professional football team since the beginning of the 2013 NFL season are continuing their efforts as the 2014 season begins. On Thursday, the Change The Mascot campaign led by the National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation, along with a coalition of more than 100 other groups and organizations, will send a letter to radio and TV broadcasters and their outlets urging them to no longer use the name “Redskins.”
“Throughout history, this term has been used to disparage Native Americans,” the letter states. “It is the term used by bounty hunters to describe bloody Native scalps, and it was the epithet screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands. No doubt, the bigotry of this word is why the team was originally given the name by its longtime owner, avowed segregationist George Preston Marshall.”
It continues: “Some might argue that objectivity requires broadcasters to continue promoting the racial slur as long as Washington team owner Dan Snyder keeps denigrating Native Americans by using the epithet as his team’s name. But in this particular fight for basic equality and mutual respect, there is no ‘objective’ position. Every time the slur is promoted on the public airwaves even in a non-critical way by a journalist, it is an endorsement of the continued use of this slur. In other words, using this word is not just to legitimize it — it is to endorse its use, to ignore its definition and to defend its message.”
The coalition that signed onto the letter includes an assortment of Native American organizations; civil rights groups like the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League; large unions like the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, and Service Employees International Union; and religious groups.
The number of media outlets, individual newspaper columnists, and broadcasters that have quit using the name to refer to Washington’s football team has grown ahead of the 2014 season. The Washington Post’s editorial board recently decided to stop using the name, and CBS Sports, Fox, and ESPN, three of the NFL’s top broadcast partners, all announced that they would give broadcasters, analysts, and on-air talent the option to avoid saying the name during the upcoming season. CBS analyst Phil Simms and NBC analyst Tony Dungy have said they plan to avoid saying it; ESPN analyst Tom Jackson and reporters Lisa Salters and Lindsay Czarniak have said they plan not to say it or prefer not to say it. A number of newspapers and individual columnists have had long-standing policies keeping the name out of print (ThinkProgress’ policy is to use the name only for clarity in reference to the fight against it).
The Change The Mascot campaign also plans to supplement the letter with radio ads on a national station and in Houston ahead of Washington’s Sunday game against the Houston Texans. According to a release, the ads will ask listeners to call their local outlets and urge them to quit using the team’s name as well. The campaign ran radio ads in opposing markets throughout the 2013 season.
The franchise has started its own public relations campaign ahead of the season, launching a web site, enlisting former players, and running TV ads. Owner Daniel Snyder, who said last year that he will “NEVER” change the name, has also defended the name in multiple interviews with ESPN and other networks.