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RWF sent a letter to District Mayor Muriel Bowser offering to pay for the removal of the George Preston Marshall Monument that stands in the front entrance of RFK stadium. Mr. Marshall was the first owner of the team and an avowed segregationist. He coined the racist name. Read the letter and press release here:
Dear Executive Elrich and Members of the County Council:
I am pleased to send to you the attached letter from Rev. Timothy Tutt and the Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ asking the council to pass a resolution urging Mr. Snyder to change the name of the professional Washington football team.
The letter states in part:
"In June 2014, the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church Of Christ called upon the Washington Football League team to cease using the racially demeaning name of “Redskins,” its associated mascot, and its affiliated imagery. This resolution will allow the United Church of Christ once again — through its General Synod — to demonstrate it’s progressive leadership on social issues through its participation in the vanguard of a burgeoning national movement to end a significant signal of racial discrimination in our nation’s very capital."
"Persecution against all religions have been aided and abetted by the use of stereotypes and name calling. It is with this perspective that we call on Mr. Snyder to change the name of the team. We are all made in the image of God and each of us deserves dignity and respect. Please pass a resolution asking Mr. Snyder to change the name of his team."
This is the second recent letter from a religious institution based in Montgomery County. I have also shared with you a letter from the Bethesda Jewish Congregation, which can be found here along with statements against the name from other prominent religious and civil rights organizations. Now that a significant portion of your constituency have spoken eloquently with faith and conviction for changing the name, we hope you can expeditiously pass the resolution. County Executive Elrich has stated to Rebrand Washington Football that he intends to introduce a resolution.
We stand ready to work with you in this important issue.
Josh Silver, Remarks at Yom Kippur Service, Bethesda Jewish Congregation, October 9, 2019
Art Monk, John Riggins, Doug Williams, and Joe Gibbs…these were my childhood heroes. I have watched this team for more than 40 years.
The team, under the ownership of Mr. Daniel Snyder, has lost its luster.
The name is a dictionary defined racial slur.
Mr. Snyder says the name honors Native Americans.
In Idaho, a school district recently retired the name R-skins from its high school name. The high school responded to the local Shoshone-Bannock tribe, which said that the continued use of the name would only honor genocide. A tribal position paper says, “We do not have a name for r-dskin in our language. The origin of the name r-dskin refers to the name colonists made up. These names clearly delineated Indian people as a separate race of people who had no civil rights under the U.S. Constitution.”
The Idaho school district has joined the ranks of over 2,000 schools that have eliminated Native American mascots.
Psychological research finds that stereotypical logos and mascots damage the education of children and lead to bullying.
The first owner of the team, George Preston Marshall, was a bigot and last NFL owner to integrate his team in 1962. He coined the name not to honor Native Americans but to use the name, fake Native American dancing, and singing Dixie at half time to appeal to his segregated Southern audiences.
Why should Jews care? Think about how names and stereotypes contributed to genocide against Jews. Think about how even in recent years, powerful people have engaged in the use of anti-Semitic tropes. Just last year, there was a Jewish mascot depicting a Jew awash in money in parade in Belgium.
Jewish organizations including the Anti-Defamation League have called for the immediate retirement of the R-skins name and logo.
Currently, the Montgomery County Council is considering a resolution asking Mr. Snyder to change the name of the team. Hopefully the council joins others in Alexandria, Arlington, and the District of Columbia that have passed these resolutions.
I co-founded a group called Rebrand Washington Football that collects petitions and seeks to galvanize public opinion against the name. You can look at our website to see how to get involved.
During the High Holidays, we repent for our sins. Have we, myself included, sinned by rooting for a team that dishonors and denigrates Native Americans. Aren’t we all created in the image of the creator, and thus we must respect the holy dignity of everyone?
This week, the Washington Post columnist, Courtland Milloy, wrote, “Change the name. Or lose the team.” That about sums it up.
This past week, the City of Alexandria Council passed a resolution replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Day. In the same resolution, the Council called on all sports teams in the area with Native American names and mascots to abandon these stereotypes and racial slurs.
Other local councils must pass these resolutions and also urge Mr. Daniel Snyder to change the name of his professional football team. The District of Columbia and Arlington County councils passed resolutions requesting Mr. Snyder change the name of his team. We are looking at other large and traditionally progressive counties such as Montgomery County to follow suit.
The newly passed resolution states in part:
WHEREAS, 50,000 Indigenous Peoples comprised at least 15 separate Nations prior to the arrival of English settlers in Virginia. These include the Doege Indian village, which was cited on John Smith’s 1608 map, and the Nottoway, Mattaponi, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Manahoac, Tutelo, Patawomeck, Sappony, Shawnee, Occaneechi, Meherrin, Paspahegh, Appommatoc, Chisca, and Westo; and
WHEREAS, recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day would be a crucial first step in acknowledging the deliberate and systematic oppression of Indigenous People, to celebrate their resiliency and contributions while acknowledging the current presence of Native Nations and their thriving cultures, while also sharing current issues facing their communities; and WHEREAS, since 1994, more than 130 cities across the country have renamed Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day; and
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council of the City of Alexandria does hereby proclaim that the second Monday of each October shall perpetually be known and celebrated as Indigenous Peoples’ Day;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City of Alexandria calls on all sports organization operating in the Commonwealth of Virginia to cease the heinous use of Indigenous Peoples’ liken as mascots.
The full resolution can be viewed here:
Native Americans Lead the Charge to Change High School Mascots but New Survey Says Most are Not Offended
A new survey was just released suggesting that most Native Americans are not offended by Native American mascots. Yet, this round-up of recent struggles to change the name of high school mascots shows that Native American tribes lead campaigns to change mascots.
Surveys cannot be used to settle civil rights issues. If they were, the Supreme Court would have ruled differently in Brown v. Board of Education because mainstream society in the 1950s would have responded overwhelmingly negatively in a survey probing about the need to integrate schools.
Examining the survey results shows enough contradictions that honest defenders of Native American mascots would not want to use the results to bolster their cause. While the survey said that most Native Americans were not offended by the mascots, the survey also found that similar percentages of Native Americans were annoyed or frustrated by mascots as were supportive of them. Moreover younger Native Americans were more likely to be opposed to mascots than older generations.
The fatal flaw with the survey is that respondents were self-identified as Native Americans instead of officially enrolled in tribes. Self-identification can include people who are not Native Americans so survey results can be tainted. The Native American Journalists Association demanded a retraction of all commentary and reporting associated with this survey. Further, Native American writer and advocate Rebecca Nagle points out that fake surveys find fake Native Americans and produce fake results. Another survey that verified that respondents were enrolled in tribes found that 67 percent of Native Americans were offended by mascots.
What is clear is that a significant number of Native Americans find mascots so offensive that they are outspoken in their determination to eradicate them. While survey results are befuddled and inaccurate, local actions across the country make clear that the wisest course is to eliminate racist vestiges of the past. Why persist in continuing with mascots that tribal representatives assert demean their culture and harm their well being? We need to dispense with surveys just as we need to dispense with Native American mascots.
Here is a roundup of high schools changing their names this summer. Native American tribes were quite involved and not ambivalent as survey results would suggest.
The school board that oversees Teton High School, near the Wyoming-Iowa border, voted this July to retire the name of the high school, R-skins. Ironically, a rural community near Iowa has the moral courage to drop a racial slur mascot while the supposedly urbane professional football team in Washington DC marches on with a racist mascot, name, and logo.
The change was not easy. In a survey, most students of the high school opposed the change. A Facebook group with 1,000 users formed to defend the name as respecting and honoring Native Americans. An equally determined group of writers for the student newspaper declared that they were dispensing with the use of Native American names. Almost 200 people showed up at a board meeting to voice their opinions of the name.
The board voted 4-1 to scrap the name. However, the complete change will take time as the board also decided that no taxpayer money will be used remove Native American signage on school property. The board will engage the community in a process to find a new name.
The change has been occurring over a number of years. The school no longer used a physical mascot dressed up as a Native American and the logo on uniforms no longer contained a head of a Native American.
Two local Native American tribes, the Shoshone-Bannock and Nez Percé, had been outspoken about the need for a change. In a position paper, the Shoshone-Bannock tribe says that “the continued use of the name would only honor the non-Indian ideology created by dominant mainstream society, whose ancestors killed, sold, removed the original Indian residents. We do not have a name for r-dskin in our language. The origin of the name r-dskin refers to the name colonists made up. These names clearly delineated Indian people as a separate race of people who had no civil rights under the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights.”
Seems like enough people in the Teton High School district understood that Native American logos and dances used by schools, colleges, and professional teams are inaccurate descriptions of Native American rituals, costumes, and religions. Native American mascots and names are cultural appropriation used by the dominant culture to exploit, stereotype, and discriminate.
The Boise High School District will also delete a Native America name and imagery, dropping “Braves” in favor of “Brave.” District spokesperson Dan Hollar stated, "So it's no longer associated with a Native American imagery. Rather than a caricature, the mascot is a character trait." The school had been called the “Braves” since the 1920s.
The state legislature is considering a bill that would ban the use of Native American logos and names in public schools. About three dozen schools in the state use Native American names and logos.
In Braintee, public schools use the names “Wamps” which is short hand for the tribal name Wampatuk. Tribal representatives do not regard a nickname as honoring their tribe or traditions.
Not all school officials are on board with banning Native American mascots. Brian Lynch, who leads the Middleborough school district said “Middleboro has always treated the Sachem name with honor and respect.” Sachem is derived from an Algonquin word that means “chief.” Hopefully, the process of education and dialogue will lead to a softening of the opposition and the dropping of Native American mascots.
A push by students led to the retirement of “Indians” in favor of “Redhawks” at the Manchester school district. In 2018, the students conducted a survey which found that most students in the high school favored a name change.
“We’re proud of the students for all their work,” Superintendent Matthew Geary said. “The kids did the research, they presented a thoughtful, cohesive argument to the Board of Education. Our community is evolving. The school system is committed to working on equity, the town is working on equity, so in a lot of ways this is a long time coming.”
Similarly, Killingly High School Redmen symbols will be retired. The school district consulted the Nipmuc Tribal Council, which said that the name was not appropriate. In a letter, the Chairman of the tribe, Kenneth Gould Sr., maintained, “Native American mascots, often portrayed as caricatures or cartoons, are demeaning to Native Americans and it is our opinion that they should not be used. We do not feel it is appropriate for our culture to be appropriated in this way, or that we should be represented in this way.”
Progress still needs to be made. About 20 other Connecticut high schools still use Native American names and logos.
This month, Maine became the first state to officially ban Native American mascots, names, and images for its public schools and colleges.
Governor Janet Mills signed “An Act to Ban Native American Mascots in All Public Schools.” The legislation states, “A public school, the University of Maine System or any college within the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System….may not have or adopt a name, symbol or image that depicts or refers to a Native American tribe, individual, custom or tradition and that is used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead or team name of the school.”
In explaining the need for the change, Maulian Dana, the tribal ambassador for the Penobscot Nation in Maine states, “It is part of a big picture of historical oppression of Indigenous people. When you see people as less than people, you treat them accordingly. That actually points to the very core of it, is that they make us invisible and turn us into stereotypes.”
Two decades ago, about 20 public schools and colleges in Maine had Native American themed mascots, including some with the name R-skins. This year, the school board in Skowhegan ended their Native American mascot, becoming the last school district to shed the stereotypical mascots.
Other states have taken action against Native American mascots, but have not gone as far as Maine. Oregon, for example, has banned these mascots unless a school district gets permission from a tribe to continue using a Native American mascots. California bans the use of R-skins as a name.
Mr. Snyder, owner of the Washington R-skins, would be in a hot seat if one of the states in the DC region took similar action.
Meanwhile, other recent actions across the country against racial slur mascots include:
Schools across the country and in Canada are dropping racially insensitive mascots. Often, these are multi-year discussions and debates in the local communities. Yet, conclusions are ultimately reached that the mascots are racially insensitive and harmful. If only Mr. Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington football team, will learn from these experiences.
Here is a review of some of the rebranding efforts so far during 2019:
Cedar High School in Utah sends Redmen Packing
This past February, the Iron County School Board voted 3-2 to retire Redmen, the name and mascot for seven decades, of the Cedar High School in Utah. This vote follows a 17-7 vote of a community committee composed of students, alumni, and tribal members. This committee held three hearings. As well as being considered a racial slur, the name helped promote bullying of Native American students on-line and on campus.
T Carter, historian, researcher and activist based in Northern Virginia, said “Cedar High School in Utah welcomed communications from current students, alumni, the local community and activists from across the United States who work to change disparaging and stereotypical Native American names and mascots. I actively participated in the spirited and passionate debates for months. After sincere listening and thoughtful consideration, the school board voted to change the racist name and mascot. This is a victory for indigenous people, as well as the entire Cedar High student body, teachers, staff and the entire community. I hope other schools and professional sports teams will follow this wise decision.”
McGill University Also Retires Redmen
McGill University in Montreal, Canada has been known as the Redmen since the 1920s. At first, the name was a reference to the color of the uniforms but it eventually it represented indigenous peoples. A member of the men’s rowing team from the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta initiated a petition drive last year that gathered 10,000 signatures.
Suzanne Fortier, the university principal and vice chancellor, wrote in a letter announcing the change, “Intention, however benign, does not negate prejudicial effect. Inclusion and respect are at the core of our university’s principles and values; pejoratives run contrary to who we are as a community. For these reasons, the Redmen name is not one that our community would choose today, and it is not one that McGill should carry forward into our third century.”
McGill will start a process for selecting a new name and mascot before the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
In 1994, St. John’s University changed its name from Redmen to Red Storm. In 1972, the University of Massachusetts changed its name from Redmen to Minutemen.
Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California
It took 17 years but the school district this April decided to shed the name Cherokees and replace it with Ravens. In 2002, students and teachers asked the district to change the mascot and name, saying both were offensive. The district dropped the Native American mascot but kept the name Cherokees. Even earlier in 2000, Chad Smith, a Cherokee school principal wrote that “Sports teams use an American Indian mascot to project an image that is savage and warrior-like, as portrayed in stereotypical imagery of the Hollywood movie. The Cherokee people do not perceive conceptual symbolism or symbolic behavior (e.g.,the tomahawk chop or stereotypical drumming or chanting) as respectful of our culture. There is no honor is seeing our culture being trivialized and exploited.”
In 2018, students and teachers again took up the cause, circulating petitions with 600 signatures. They presented the results of a survey in which 754 out of 1,209 respondents said the name should be retired. The board saw the wisdom in the activism of the students and teachers and voted to retire Native American themes completely.
Fairview Park City, Ohio
For decades, Fairview Park City schools were called the Warriors and had Native American logos and mascots that would dance at school games. This all ended in April.
“The district had put their foot down and said that we will not be dressing anyone up like a Native American and putting them on the sidelines of events,” said Chris Vicha, principal of Fairview High School and Lewis F. Mayer Middle School. “We’re not going to do that anymore. We don’t believe in that.”
Vicha is working with students, coaches, and community members to come up with a new mascot, logo, and name. The timing is right as the school grounds are undergoing renovations. This process of rebranding can be energizing, which Mr. Snyder could also use to rally fans around his team. Vicha continues, “The buzz in the building right now is fantastic. Our current student body is extremely excited about this.”
Skowhegan Area High School, Maine
This March, the Skowhegan school board voted 14-9 to retire its Native American mascot and logo. This was the last high school in Maine to rebrand. The state is now free of racially insensitive names and mascots. The Penobscot Nation led efforts to retire the name, calling it racist. Supporters said the name honored Native Americans. The Governor of Maine, Janet Mills, urged the district to retire the name.
Yet, the issue may not be settled. Supporters of the name are pressing for a referendum. This advocacy prompted opponents in the state legislature to prepare legislation prohibiting the use of Native American logos and mascots. As the controversy continues, RWF hopes that the stakeholders listen to the indigenous community that is clearly against the name and logo.
The Washington Post reports that Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is filing legislation asking Congress to sell to the District of Columbia the 190-acre site on which the old RFK stadium sits. Delegate Norton states she is neutral on the use of the site and wants the District’s citizens to decide. She has repeatedly denounced the name of the team as a racial slur.
Yet, Mr. Snyder salivates at the possibility of returning the team to the old RFK site, the location he remembers fondly watching games as a kid. Mayor Bowser likewise sees enticing the team back to the District as her legacy.
The fairest approach is to have an inclusive process that allows residents of the District of Columbia, particularly residents in neighborhoods adjacent to RFK, an opportunity to make their views known through ample public hearings in neighborhoods and before the Council. It is our bet that they would not favor a new football stadium, particularly at taxpayer expense. The stadium does not maximize the public value and use of the land since it is used perhaps less than a dozen times a year for the team’s games.
Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who represents the area near RFK, declares that “Building a stadium for a billionaire is just a horrible waste of taxpayer dollars. Build more housing. Recruit more jobs. More parks that could connect to Anacostia neighborhoods.”
We could not agree more. The District of Columbia faces an affordable housing crisis. This past week, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) released a report on gentrification. Of all the cities studied, Washington DC has the most intense gentrification with 40 percent of its census tracts gentrifying over the last thirteen years. Incredibly, 20,000 African-Americans moved out of these neighborhoods. Mayor Bowser recognizes the affordable housing crisis and has asked for more funding in her budget for affordable housing.
The current status of the abandoned stadium and land is untenable considering housing and job needs in the District of Columbia. Perhaps, Norton’s bill should be amended to either donate the land to the District or sell it at a substantial discount if the land is not used for a stadium but instead employed for housing, small business development, recreation, and other neighborhood needs. We recognize the imperative of local decision-making, especially for a city that remains a colony of the federal government without voting representation in Congress in 2019! However, Congress can certainly impose sensible conditions such as telling the city that it will charge full price for the land if the city contemplates using it for a team with a name that is a dictionary defined racial slur.
Would Congress be up to such an approach? Key decision-makers remain steadfast in their opposition to the name. The chief of staff to Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn) who leads the House Appropriations subcommittee on the interior maintains, “This (the Norton bill) does not change her perspective on the team name. She remains adamantly opposed to the team name.” Similarly, a spokesman for Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) who is on the Senate Appropriations Committee, declares, “I firmly believe that Congress should not send any message that we support or give our stamp of approval to the Washington football team’s racist name.”
An overwhelming number of policy, civil rights, and human rights considerations combine to oppose any Dan Snyder acquisition of the old RFK stadium. As columnist Colbert I. King puts it, acquiring the land is the right goal, but giving it to Snyder would be the wrong reason for the acquisition. If the process for deciding the fate of the land is fair and public, we are confident that the land will be employed for important neighborhood purposes other than buttressing racial stereotypes and slurs.
Blackface = Redface = Racism. RWF sends a letter to Gov. Northam urging him to refrain from offering any support or subsidies for a stadium in VA while the team retains a dictionary defined racial slur as a name. Download letter to read more.
Dear Members of the Montgomery County Council:
This week was a bad week for Daniel Snyder. Today, Governor Hogan announced he was abandoning his plans to pursue a new stadium in Maryland. This was probably due in part to the reluctance of the Prince Georges County Executive to spend public dollars on supporting infrastructure when so many pressing needs compete for scarce resources. And yesterday, Democrat Delegate David Moon re-introduced a bill to prohibit the expenditure of public tax dollars to support a stadium. This bill is also being introduced in the Virginia legislature by Republican Delegate Michael Webert and, and DC Councilmember David Grosso.
Why is this effort bi-partisan? Perhaps in part because elected officials are realizing that heavily subsidizing stadiums is a losing economic proposition. I also think, however, that they do not want to subsidize moral bankruptcy. This team has had a string of losing moral moves including mistreatment and exploitation of cheerleaders, hiring a running back that admitted to physical abuse of his child, and hiring a linebacker accused of domestic abuse that no other team would employ. This is the same moral bankruptcy that insists that a dictionary defined racial slur is an honor for Native Americans.
It is time to make it clear to Mr. Daniel Snyder that his business model is not welcome. He needs to change his ways or else his public reputation will continue to suffer damage, his team will become increasingly unpopular, attendance at the games will continue to shrink, and his profits will decline. People just sense that there is something rotten in the state of Fed Ex Field. That is why I have been advocating that Montgomery County follow the lead of Washington DC and Arlington County in passing resolutions urging Mr. Snyder to change the name. Let us make it clear that Mr. Snyder will continue to experience discomfort and will not find a home for his stadium until he does the right thing.
County Executive Elrich has publicly indicated to me via Facebook of all mediums that he intends to introduce a resolution asking for a name change. He needs a majority of the Council. I implore you to conjure up the moral courage and become a part of a majority that will strike a blow for civil rights and dignity for all peoples.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter.
Josh Silver is one of the founders of RWF and is a life time fan that wants the name changed!