The opening week of the NFL season will bring with it renewed protests against the name of Washington’s football team, as Native American groups plan to demonstrate against the name before Washington’s opening game in Houston on Sunday.
Chance Landry, the founder, curator, and director of Houston’s Southern Apache Museum, is organizing the protest, which will include groups like the Anti-Defamation League and other Native American groups.
“We’re trying to let the general public know that Native Americans are alive and well in Houston, and that we’re tired of names like Redskins and Warriors,” Landry told ThinkProgress Sunday morning. “We think it’s wrong. And that’s why we’re speaking out against it. Because most people have no idea.”
Protesters will carry signs displaying messages like “We are human beings, not mascots,” said Landry, who is Lipan Apache. She said she “had no idea” how many people would join the protest, which she began organizing earlier this week.
The Southern Apache Museum entered the larger “Redskins” fight in 2013 when it was among the groups that helped persuade the Houston Independent School District to change the names of four schools that used Native American names and mascots, Landry said.
“We’re fighting today so that our children and our grand children won’t have to live with this horrible stigma of being called Redskins. It’s prejudice. It’s racism,” Landry said. “I think if it hurts one person, that’s enough to change it.”
There were demonstrations before the Washington games in Minnesota, Dallas, Green Bay, and other cities during the 2013 season, when public opposition to the name increased as the National Congress of American Indians, which has formally opposed the name for more than four decades, and Oneida Indian Nation launched a campaign to change the mascot.
Oneida and NCAI’s Change The Mascot campaign is also running a radio ad against the name in the Houston market. The ad, which follows up similar ads the campaign ran throughout the 2013 season, calls on people who “believe Native Americans do not deserve to be slurred every Sunday” to “call your local newspaper, local sports talk radio station and local television station and tell them to not use the R-word when reporting on the Washington team.”
Multiple broadcasters, including CBS’s Phil Simms and NBC’s Tony Dungy, have already announced that they will not use the name this season, and all four of the league’s broadcast partners gave their on-air talent the option to avoid it. A growing list of news outlets have decided to stop printing the name; the Charlotte Observer became the latest to quit using the name this week.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Washington owner Daniel Snyder have continuously defended the team’s name as an honor to Native Americans. But Landry said her groups and others will continually protest until it is changed.
“I think that one person, if it makes a difference, if it just touches one individual that can control it, that can make a difference, then we’ll have a change,” she said. “They’re being hard-headed…but maybe if we keep doing this, it will be changed eventually.”