Redskins: Insult and Brand

Redskins: Insult and Brand

Redskins: Insult and Brand

Redskins: Insult and Brand

Synopsis

Capitalizing on American Indian stereotypes

The Washington Redskins franchise remains one of the most valuablein professional sports, in part because of its easily recognizable,popular, and profitable brand.

And yet "redskins" is a derogatory name for American Indians. The number of grassroots campaigns to change the name has risen in recent years despite the current team owner's assertion that the team will never do so. Franchise owners counter criticism by arguing thatthe team name is positive and a term of respect and honor that many American Indians embrace. The NFL, for its part, actively defends the name and supports it in court.

Prominent journalists, politicians, and former players have publically spoken out against the use of "Redskins" as the name of the team. Sportscaster Bob Costas denounced the name as a racial slur during a halftime show in 2013. U.S. Representative Betty McCollum marched outside the stadium with other protesters--among them former Minnesota Vikings player Joey Browner--urging that the name be changed.

Redskins: Insult and Brand examines how the ongoing struggle over the team name raises important questions about how white Americansperceive American Indians, about the cultural power of consumer brands, and about continuing obstacles to inclusion and equality. C. Richard King examines the history of the team's name, the evolution of the term "redskin," and the various ways in which people both support and oppose its use today. King's hard-hitting approach to the team's logo and mascot exposes the disturbing history of a moniker'sassociation with the NFL--a multibillion-dollar entity that accepts public funds--as well as popular attitudes toward Native Americans today.

Excerpt

Redskin is a problem. It is an outdated reference to an American Indian. It is best regarded as a racial slur on par with other denigrating terms. in fact, while similar terms have been crossed out of our collective vocabulary as inappropriate and offensive, much like on the cover of this book, it still finds use. Most visibly, it remains the moniker of the Washington professional football team, long anchoring its brand and traditions. This should unsettle us. the word has deep connections to the history of anti-Indian violence, marked by ethnic cleansing, dispossession, and displacement. It is a term of contempt and derision that targets indigenous people. As much a weapon as a word, then, it injures and excludes, denying history and humanity. Its lingering presence undermines the pursuit of equality, inclusion, and empowerment by American Indians. Indeed, this continued use of a racial slur as the name of a professional sports team, the ongoing defense of it, and the willingness of the franchise, the National Football League (NFL), and their media partners to profit from it pose an even more troubling set of problems.

Sportscaster Bob Costas seemed to recognize as much when in October 2013, during halftime of the Sunday Night Football game between Dallas and Washington, he offered a sharply worded critique of the latter’s team name, describing it as a “slur” and an “insult.” in denouncing the continued use of the moniker, he followed a growing number of high-profile . . .

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