Native Americans speak on sports imagery

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Mr.Tea
Native Americans speak on sports imagery

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Mr.Tea

"As the debate over the use of Native American imagery by sports teams continues to heat up, the discussion is particularly intense in our nation's capital, where there's a growing movement to change the local NFL team's name from a racial slur to something more palatable. Several Washington Post columnists have called for a name change; the Washington Redskins blog Hogs Haven also supports the name change; the weekly Washington City Paper has already begun calling the team by a different name; and just last week, Washington mayor Vincent Gray pointedly avoided using the team's name in his State of the District address

But as the arguments continue to pour in on both sides, one fact is inescapable: Most of the voices that have been heard in this debate, including mine, have not come from American Indians. That has led many readers to ask me, "Why do you, as a white person, think you get to speak for Indians on this topic? If this is an issue that affects Native Americans, why can't they speak for themselves?" 

That's exactly what happened in Washington this past Thursday at the National Museum of the American Indian, which held a day-long symposium on the use of Native American imagery in sports. Most of the panelists were American Indians, as were many of the audience members who spoke during discussion segments. I'm going to devote most of this column to their words. "

 

You can read some of the comments here: http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/fandom/post/_/id/18144/native-americans...

Slumberjack

If it's a throwback to a certain type of imagery that they're reaching for in a new name, they can always go with The Washington Red Scare.

Sven Sven's picture

Good post, Tea.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Nice post, Mr. Tea. Since the article is about Aboriginal voices, I'm going to quote some of the ones in the article here:

From E. Newton Jackson, professor of sports management at the University of North Florida and a member of the Cherokee Tribes of South Carolina: "How does one person tell another that they honor them best? How do we do that when I'm telling you that what you're saying and doing does not honor me?"

 

From John Orendorff, a U.S. Army colonel and Native American: "I often feel that the underlying point of these 'honors' is that my Indian heritage is owned by others. The message I'm constantly getting is: 'We own you. We will define how we honor you. Don't tell us whether you like it or not, because we own you. When we hunt down Osama bin Laden, we can refer to him as Geronimo -- which happens to be my son's name -- because we own you. You don't control how you're perceived. We control that. Because we own you.'"

 

From Lois Risling, land specialist for the Hoopa Valley Tribes, who attended Stanford University in the early 1970s, when the school's teams were known as the Indians and were cheered on to "scalp the [Cal] bear": "We were told it was an honor to have an Indian mascot chosen as the symbol as a great university. When 55 of us presented a petition to have the name and symbol changed, we were told we were all taking it too personal and should just get over it. When we said Prince Lightfoot [the school's live mascot at the time] was wearing clothing that was wrong, and that his dance was wrong, we were told, 'Stanford Indians dress like this, and anyone who goes to Stanford is a Stanford Indian, so that makes it OK.'"

Mr.Tea

Quick update to this story: The United States Patent Office has just repealed the federal patents and trademarks associated with "Washington Redskins" on the basis that the name is disparaging to Native Americans.

While the team could presumably appeal the decision, it looks like the racist "Redskins" name and logo will be gone soon.

I'd be curious to hear others opinions on this. I think the "Redskins" name is impossible to defend and clearly a slur but what about the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, etc?

Slumberjack

Yeah it all needs renaming.  How about the Atlanta Millionaires vs. the Cleveland Megabucks?

6079_Smith_W

Already done:

http://www.melvillemillionaires.ca/page/show/634757-the-story-behind-the...

There was a Vancouver Millionaires team at one time too.

How about this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fighting_Whites

Quote:

The team sold enough shirts that they were eventually able to endow a sizeable scholarship fund for Native American students at Northern Colorado. In 2003, the team donated $100,000 to the University of Northern Colorado's UNC Foundation, which included $79,000 designated for the "Fightin' Whites Minority Scholarship"

And of course the Saskatoon School Board finally forced a change to one of the teams here in town a few months ago. They are now the Redhawks.

 

DaveW

Mr.Tea wrote:

I'd be curious to hear others opinions on this. I think the "Redskins" name is impossible to defend and clearly a slur but what about the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, etc?

Cleveland has a terrible logo, as did Atlanta

-- but the Chiefs or Braves as words do not offend me, they are not devaluing anybody

Slumberjack

You can only speak for yourself in that regard DaveW.  A lot of 'anybodies' have weighed in to say that these names do devalue.

Mr.Tea

For me, it's less the names themselves than everything that goes with them. So the Cleveland Indians mascot "Chief Wahoo" is an offensive caricature. The Atlanta Braves fans do the "tomahawk chop" and chant native-esque chants during games. You wouldn't really get this with regards to any other ethnic group. It seems Native Americans are the only ones who are routinely turned into mascots.

DaveW

what is a Yankee? a Canuck (many were offended when NHL Vancouver chose that)?

a Cornhusker? a Giant? a Dodger?

are these mascots, cliches, etc?

Mr.Tea

Yankees, Canucks, Cornhuskers, Dodgers, etc. are all affectionate nicknames for the locals of where these teams are (or were) based. It's one thing to have a nickname that reflects local pride, quite another to have a nickname that disparages another group.

bekayne

DaveW wrote:

what is a Yankee? a Canuck (many were offended when NHL Vancouver chose that)?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canuck_letter

Pogo Pogo's picture

6079_Smith_W wrote:

And of course the Saskatoon School Board finally forced a change to one of the teams here in town a few months ago. They are now the Redhawks.

Bedford Road Collegiate is where my siblings went to school.  Deep in the West side of Saskatoon it must have a large number of First Nations students, so changing the name makes sense in so many ways. 

While we are thinking of changing names of teams, perhaps the Blades could become more creative and choose an appropriate name from local flora and fauna.  Given their inability to achieve anything, maybe the "Chokecherries".  (sorry for the drift)

Pondering

DaveW wrote:

Mr.Tea wrote:

I'd be curious to hear others opinions on this. I think the "Redskins" name is impossible to defend and clearly a slur but what about the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, etc?

Cleveland has a terrible logo, as did Atlanta

-- but the Chiefs or Braves as words do not offend me, they are not devaluing anybody

They are disparaging because the teams were not chosen by FN people or by chiefs or by braves. They were selected by rich white men who name their teams things like "The Bears".

You might think that it is complementary to portray indigeneous people as strong warriors in the use of these terms but it isn't. It is reminiscent of racist portrayals of indigenous peoples as being more primitive and fearsome. 

If indigenous people want to name their teams or businesses "Chiefs or Braves" that is their right. 

onlinediscountanvils

Deejay NDN wrote:
"Chiefs" were named after the Mayor of Kansas City. It's the logo that's cultural appropriation. If the logo was a Fireman's hat, no appropriation.

cco

What about the CFL Eskimos? We had an interesting discussion about this over on enMasse. I said that it had often confused me that "Eskimo" is considered a pejorative in Canada, since in Alaska, it's the preferred term by both whites and natives. It encompasses both the Yupik and the Inuit, who don't have words for the other in their respective languages. Do Canada's Inuit find this team name offensive?

Pondering

onlinediscountanvils wrote:

Deejay NDN wrote:
"Chiefs" were named after the Mayor of Kansas City. It's the logo that's cultural appropriation. If the logo was a Fireman's hat, no appropriation.

Agreed

abnormal

Mr.Tea wrote:

Quick update to this story: The United States Patent Office has just repealed the federal patents and trademarks associated with "Washington Redskins" on the basis that the name is disparaging to Native Americans.

While the team could presumably appeal the decision, it looks like the racist "Redskins" name and logo will be gone soon.

I'd be curious to hear others opinions on this. I think the "Redskins" name is impossible to defend and clearly a slur but what about the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, etc?

If it's appealed I'd expect the team to prevail (speaking from memory the courts ruled in favour of the team a few years back and it appears that the patent office is simply trying to circumvent that ruling).

 

Mr.Tea

My understanding after having read more is basically that they can keep the "Redskins" name but they will have no protection around trademarks of it. If I wanted to print up a Toronto Blue Jays t-shirt or hat or whatever, I'd have to pay a licensing fee to the team. So, all this really means is that people can make counterfit goods. Whether the loss of revenue will be enough to make them change the name...who knows?

abnormal

Mr.Tea wrote:
My understanding after having read more is basically that they can keep the "Redskins" name but they will have no protection around trademarks of it.

I believe that was the subject of a previous lawsuit (sometime in the 90's) and the team prevailed.  This seems to be another attempt by the patent board to override that court decision.

Quote:
If I wanted to print up a Toronto Blue Jays t-shirt or hat or whatever, I'd have to pay a licensing fee to the team. So, all this really means is that people can make counterfit goods. Whether the loss of revenue will be enough to make them change the name...who knows?

The alternative is the team decides that the loss of revenue (and/or issues relating to fan loyalty) makes it worth while to appeal the ruling - if they do I'd be surprised if the court doesn't support the team.

 

 

Sean in Ottawa

Pondering wrote:

DaveW wrote:

Mr.Tea wrote:

I'd be curious to hear others opinions on this. I think the "Redskins" name is impossible to defend and clearly a slur but what about the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, etc?

Cleveland has a terrible logo, as did Atlanta

-- but the Chiefs or Braves as words do not offend me, they are not devaluing anybody

They are disparaging because the teams were not chosen by FN people or by chiefs or by braves. They were selected by rich white men who name their teams things like "The Bears".

You might think that it is complementary to portray indigeneous people as strong warriors in the use of these terms but it isn't. It is reminiscent of racist portrayals of indigenous peoples as being more primitive and fearsome. 

If indigenous people want to name their teams or businesses "Chiefs or Braves" that is their right. 

Very true.

Privilege is central to racism. It is one of the active ingredients along with cluelessness (willful or otherwise).

Here is an example I saw on twitter and saved for its staggering ignorance. The writer who explains that he is white, male, and 42 claims everyone else is racist but him. The concept of privilege eludes him as he "explains" racism.

http://cagsil.hubpages.com/hub/Continuing-Issue-Racism-In-The-United-States-of-America

I used this example because it is so clear and it was at hand not becuase the example is from the US. I have heard from many Canadians who think just like he does.

The combination of cluelessness and privilege is powerful. If that writer understood privilege, he could not have written that article. This is why focusing on explaining privilege may be more effective than addressing hate in more general terms.

In Canada this is complicated by the fact that Canadians actually believe propaganda to the effect that First Nations People have advantages over other Canadians. So before you can begin to explain privilege you have to deal with propaganda that is often directly and explicitly supported and spread by our current government and all-to-often the media. If it seems that racism in this country towards First Nations is getting worse, we probably should start with how cluelessness and privilege interact.

How many Canadians are aware that FN people are shortchanged on education and access to healthcare? How many are aware, when they sneer at FN people saying it is their fault they live in remote communities, that it was white people who forced that upon them. (After hunting was destroyed in 19th century by white hunters, government policy was to withhold food to starve FN people onto reserves far away from the land the government wanted to appropriate from them. It was white people who created, and made exclusive, the hubs and wealth that they accuse the First Nations people of being remote from. Many of those treaty terms that are not being respected by Canada were obtained through starvation.)  Privilege (read power) and cluelessness fuel and enable racism.

The denial of privilege is also active in the discussion about health care services to refugees in which the government of Canada has consistently misrepresented what services they have access to and what is now being denied them in an attempt to have Canadians think refugees are better off than they are. Similarly, many Canadians think immigrants have benefits other Canadians do not, including quite a few misperceptions about programs for immigrants.

This is stating the obvious here but I don’t think it is obvious enough to those who need to hear it first.

 

 

 

Bacchus

Mr.Tea wrote:

My understanding after having read more is basically that they can keep the "Redskins" name but they will have no protection around trademarks of it. If I wanted to print up a Toronto Blue Jays t-shirt or hat or whatever, I'd have to pay a licensing fee to the team. So, all this really means is that people can make counterfit goods. Whether the loss of revenue will be enough to make them change the name...who knows?

 

Actually they still have trademark protection galore with it, it just means its a tad harder to prosecute people. (for tad harder read a bit more expensive)