Demonstrators marched to the Metrodome on Thursday, demanding the Washington Redskins drop their mascot name or continue to face protests and legal challenges.
Carrying signs that read, “We Are Not Mascots” and “Redskin: A Dehumanizing Racial Slur,” about 700 protesters marched from the American Indian Movement (AIM) national office on E. Franklin Avenue about 20 blocks to the Dome, where the Vikings played Washington on Thursday night.
Among the demonstrators were Billy Mills, a Sioux Indian who won the 10,000-meter gold medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who has led a contingent of congressional representatives who oppose the name, and Joey Browner, a former Minnesota Viking and Pro Bowl player.
Mascots, Native Americans, and Caucasian Cultural Icons
So, at least the name “Blackhawks” isn’t a certifiable racist epithet like “R*dskins”, but anytime that a group of white people (in this case, an all-white professional hockey team in Chicago) has as their mascot the very identity of an ethnic group who have historically been oppressed, dispossessed, and massacred by white people, it’s not okay.
How about as a general rule people stop using other people’s cultures and identities as an icon for a sports team, unless that icon actually represents the ethnicity, composition, and cultural pride of said sports team.
So, teams comprised of white people can call themselves the “Soft Jazz”, the “Devils”, or the “Hippies,” for instance. Just stop using Native American tribe names, stereotypes, and racial slurs!
The poster reads: ”No race, creed, or religion should endure the ridicule faced by the Native Americans today. Please help us put an end to this mockery and racism by visiting www.ncai.org”
Native Americans Give Other Groups A Taste Of Casual Sports Team Racism
Native Americans have long tried to raise awareness about the racism inherent in their portrayal in sports team iconography like the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins.
President Obama recently stirred the long-simmering pot of this dispute by weighing in on behalf of Native Americans. “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things,” he was quoted as saying. And now, a campaign from The National Congress of American Indians has come to light that attempts to give perspective on just how offensive these teams’ names are.
The ad shows a Cleveland Indians ball cap adjoined by one that reads “New York Jews” and another that reads “San Francisco Chinamen.” Each also features a mascot which tastelessly accentuates the classic stereotypes of the people described. The point of the campaign is that if you find any of these hats offensive, you should find all of them offensive.
As reported by Slate, the ad isn’t new—it was created by agency Devito/Verdi in 2001—but it’s back in the spotlight as the issue has come to the fore and as the NCAI releases a new report on it.
It’s interesting that out of all the professional sports, the one that is the most ecologically destructive, geographically metastatic, and exorbitantly expensive, is the one virtually monopolized by White people. Yeah, I’m talking about golf.
As a baseball fan, I have followed from afar the story of Cory Hahn. Hahn was a recently selected in the baseball draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 34th round. The odds of a player picked so late in the draft ever stepping onto a Major League Baseball field are remote. Hahn was not your typical 34th round pick. He was a highly skilled prospect coming out of high-school. He elected to attend university and might have been chosen in a much higher round had he not experienced a spinal cord injury. As one might expect, the media has jumped all over this story. I have refrained from commenting on the way Hahn’s story because any critique will end up with me being deemed bitter. I am weary of this superficial accusation used to dismiss my social analysis. Two things struck me over the last month: first, baseball’s relationship with disability is firmly rooted to the past. The past as in Babe Ruth hitting a home run for a dying child and classic black white movies such as Pride of the Yankees. Second, sports reporters writing about Hahn, and in general, rely on an antiquated perception of disability. Disability is bad. Disability can be overcome. Those that overcome disability are an inspiration. This is the start and end of the discussion. Baseball is far more complex than hitting, catching, and throwing a ball. Baseball is more than a game. The famous French philosopher Jacques Barzun wrote “whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules, and the reality of the game”. Disability is just as complex as baseball. Disability is much more than a given physical or cognitive deficit. Of course a given deficit can play a central role in the life of a person with a disability but the social not physical barriers are far more of an obstruction.
… What I find frustrating in the extreme are quotes from [Diamondbacks President] Derick Hall who was involved in the draft. He stated “It was a very emotional selection for us to make. When Ray Montgomery and his staff came up with the idea and presented it to me, it was a no-brainer. It’s not about us. It’s really about Cory and his family. When viewed through the narrowest lens humanly possible this is correct. It is about Hahn and the injury he experienced. But this reinforces a convenient truth that disability is about an individual and nothing more. This let’s the bipedal masses off the hook when they knowingly reject the idea of making the physical and social environment accessible to all. Sure there is greater physical access than ever before. This access is not valued and is begrudgingly created. Thus unlike your typical reader that gets misty eyed reading about Hahn, my reaction is very different. I wonder is every stadium the Diamondbacks play in accessible? Are all team facilities from double A to AAA ball accessible. So I imagine a different press conference one that states the Diamondbacks seek to become the first organization in baseball to dedicate itself to making every team facility 100% accessible. The organization will not meet the ADA requirements but exceed them in every way possible.
On the positive side of the ledger, Hall also stated “we want to make this permanent. We don’t want this to just be about the selection and him being a draft pick, but about him working in full time employment with the Diamondbacks and hopefully we’ll make that come to fruition for he and his family here soon." So in less than eight minutes we have two narratives. Hahn the hero who overcame his disability. This makes me cringe. In contrast, there is Hahn who has a job prospect within baseball when he graduates from university. Great but my goodness let me dream. Baseball is about America. It is America’s game and we in the Diamondbacks organization will put people with a disability front and center of the employment line. Additionally, we call on every other major league team to do the same. Sadly, I worry about Hahn as I know the sort of physical and societal biases he has faced and will continue to face. Living with a disability can be crushing. Lives have been lost—an unknown number for sure. It is too bad the Diamondbacks organization, like the rest of America, cannot make a leap in logic and frame disability in a civil rights framework.
Colonialism and Post-Colonialism in International Sports
Watching the FIFA U-20 World Cup match today featuring USA versus France. Suddenly realized how much the history and politics of colonialism have to do with international sports. The vast majority of the USA team were of Latino descent. The vast majority of the French team were of African descent.
But you never, for instance, see a Latin American team or African team composed mostly of white people of European descent.
The powerful nations siphon talent from the less powerful nations, but never vice-versa.
As in economics and politics, so it is with sports — the colonial and post-colonial relationship only goes one way, to the benefit of the oppressor nation.
"I recently spoke with Kye Allums, the first out transgender NCAA basketball player in history, about the panel we’re doing on LGBT athletes. To hear the excitement in his voice and honestly to hear the excitement in my own voice reminded me why this one weekend of my summer always remains reserved for this utterly unique conference. The variety of talks, the amazing debates in between talks, and the partying late into the night—it’s Woodstock for radicals, and it’s simply not to be missed." —Dave Zirin, sportswriter and author.
12-year-old fights to play football with boys.
My friend writes: "Apparently God doesn’t want this girl to play football because of boys’ "lustful thoughts." Or because she tackles boys really hard. God’s sending mixed signals on this."
My own thoughts? Once again, I will reiterate that I am strongly against forced gender segregation in sports at ALL levels — amateur, collegiate, and professional.
Owing to reasons of historical oppression and discrimination, women should be allowed to play in women-only leagues, if they so choose, but prohibiting women from playing in the IMMENSELY more lucrative world of male professional sports is a form of harmful bigotry and inequality in a real material sense, let alone the sexism and misogyny which is reinforced by the archaic notion that men cannot consort with women in the field of athletics because, well, “Penises and Vaginas!!!”
well, that’s interesting …
Bruce Arians doesn’t think NFL locker rooms would have trouble accepting an openly gay player. The trouble that he does foresee stems from the NFL’s crazed fans.
“I don’t think the locker room would have any problem with it,” Arians told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview Wednesday. “The problem would be with the fans. I think especially opposing fans. Some of the things that are said are over the top and out of control that I can imagine what some fans would say to an openly gay player.”
The Cardinals head coach, who is making the media rounds before the inaugural Bruce Arians Family Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic, was adamant that his team would be more than inviting if and when a gay player comes out.
“As a coach and I can probably speak for our players too, I don’t think anybody would have any problem with it.”
"We’ll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites."
—George Preston Marshall; founder of the Washington Redskins, 1961
"We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."
—Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, 2013
… You are not a subtle man, so let’s not beat around the bush. You say the name isn’t offensive. I think it’s time to prove it. Let’s let the tailgate drop and the bullshit stop. Instead of proclaiming how “respectful” the name “redskin” is in a region with an indigenous population of just 0.6 percent, I am inviting you to take a road trip with me. I am asking you to step out of your gated community and roll with me Midnight Run–style on the Pine Ridge reservation among the Black Hills in the great state of South Dakota. Once there, you will stand tall in a beautiful burgundy-and-gold Starter jacket and your famous Redskins belt buckle, and sing our shared fight song, “Hail to the Redskins.” Explain the rich history of the team to all present. Tell them about how it’s really a tribute, as your former vice-president Karl Swanson said, “derived from the Native American tradition for warriors to daub their bodies with red clay before battle.” Make it plain that you mean no disrespect, and then let’s roll the cameras and make YouTube magic.
I fear you’ll find out the hard way that if your team name only exists because there happened to have been a genocide, then it might be time to think up a new name. I’m also afraid that when our experiment is done, you may need a trip to the dentist. It shouldn’t be too bad. After all, you can use caps.
Dave Zirin (@edgeofsports) is a fan of the Washington football team. He’s also sports editor at The Nation. His most recent book is Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down.