Washington vs. Dallas Game Stirs Up Mascot Controversy

October 16, 2013

 

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Smithsonian
While team owners dispute any racism behind the name, tribal leaders say the term "redskins" refers back to a time when there was a bounty on the heads of American Indians.

The NFL's Dallas Cowboys took on their rival Washington Redskins on Columbus Day weekend this year, a holiday many American Indians choose to protest.  Columbus is not so much a hero, but the man Native Americans say took their land and food in exchange for smallpox. And the football game gave protesters another reason to be angry — the use of the term Redskins. For many the blood spilled between real cowboys and Indians is nothing to cheer about.

On Sunday night, when Washington and Dallas football fans were reaching for a beer during halftime, sports commentator Bob Costas took a couple minutes to address the ongoing controversy about the term “Redskins.”

"Ask yourself what the equivalent would be if directed toward African Americans, Hispanics,  Asians or members of any other ethnic group. When considered that way Redskins can’t possibly honor a heritage or a noble character trait nor can it poss be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present day intent.”

Last week even President Barack Obama weighed in on the controversy. He said if he owned the Washington team he would think about changing the offensive name.

"I don't know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real legitimate concerns that people have about these things," Obama said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Team owners dispute any racism behind the mascot and refuse to change it. They say the team name honors "where we came from, who we are."

Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, member of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe, says the term "redskins" refers back to a time when there was a bounty on the heads of Indian people. Trappers would bring in Indian scalps along with other animal skins to trading posts.

Networks that carry the NFL games told the Los Angeles Times they’re contractually obligated to use the team names.

The article also points out the announcer only has to say it once. There’s really no quota.

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King have said they will no longer use the word in their stories.

The Washington Post editorial staff advocates that the team change its name. The newspaper still uses it with the exception of columnist Michael Wise who no longer does.