Native American Group Demands the NFL Change Commanders Name Back to the Redskins

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Sep 27, 2023

In recent years, the world has been more attentive than ever as to how important it is to use words that empower people as opposed to insult or offend them. And in 2020, when the NFL team in Washington formerly named the Redskins renamed themselves as the Commanders, they thought they were doing just that.

However, since the name change, a Native American rights organization has spoken out against it and requested that the name actually be changed back.

The History of the Redskins Football Team

Before diving into the current debate about the name, it’s important to understand its history.

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The first NFL team to use the name Redskins was the Boston based football team in 1933. Only four years later, the team moved to Washington and from 1937-2020, the team was called the Washington Redskins.

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“Not Your Mascot”

Then, in the 1960s, the Redskins started getting backlash as many felt that the name and logo were offensive to the Native American population.

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However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the debate spread around the country. At this time, protesters started taking to the streets; the poster slogans said phrases like “Not your mascot,” and “It’s time for change.”

Everything Changed in 2020

Although many people were discontented with the name, the NFL did nothing for years. However, everything changed in 2020.

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At that time, other significant events, such as the death of George Floyd, pointed out the extreme and widespread systemic racism throughout the country. So finally, the NFL decided to retire the controversial name.

Why Did Many Consider the Name Offensive?

Essentially, the name Redskins was considered offensive and even racist toward the indigenous Native American population of the United States.

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As a disparaging slur, millions of Native Americans as well as people of all ethnicities believed that using the name Redskins as a mascot was degrading and made light of the historical and current violence against the Native people of the land.

The Meaning of the Word ‘Redskin’

Historians claim that the term redskin has not always been considered offensive. It was simply a term used for Native Americans due the reddish coloring of their skin.

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Though today, many Native Americans associate the word with the horrific practice of scalping that was once used to collect cash bounties when the Native Americans were being targeted and killed in colonial times.

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Some Native Americans Refuse to Use the Word at All

It’s important to understand that to some Native Americans, using the term is racist, offensive, and completely inappropriate in any instance.

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One woman, Suzan Harjo, refers to the term as the “r-word” and believes that using the full word is encouraging racist attitudes and even physical violence and prejudice against Native Americans. She told the press, “It’s not alright to use disparaging terms, derogatory names, slurs, images, and behaviors.”

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NAGA Wants the Name Changed Back

Although there are many people who are thrilled with the NFL’s choice to change the name from the Redskins to the Commanders, there are others who feel the complete opposite.

Source: @GuardiansNative/X

The Native American Guardian’s Association or NAGA claims that by removing the name, the NFL has essentially erased and ignored the historical and modern importance of the Native American community.

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Fighting for the Redskins

On social media, NAGA wrote they want the NFL to “revitalize its relationship with the American Indian community and rightfully change their name back to ‘The Redskins.’”

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The NAGA also said that by changing the name, the NFL was disrespecting the Native Americans’ “steadfast role in American history, including serving as counselors to the Founding Fathers in the creation of the US Constitution.”

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Removing the Name Is Essentially “Canceling” Native American Culture

NAGA claims that by removing the name, the NFL and the country as a whole is essentially canceling Native American culture and its importance.

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They believe that by reinstating the name Redskins to the Washington NFL team, they can encourage the country to learn about its indigenous peoples and their historical significance.

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NAGA Threatened a Nationwide Boycott

NAGA wrote a letter to the NFL that stated, “Should we need to encourage a national boycott similar to what happened with Anheuser Busch (Bud Light) which is now down $27 billion (note, not one brick thrown, not one highway blocked, not one bridge burned) – WE WILL DO JUST THAT.”

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In order to understand this threat, it’s crucial to know exactly what happened to Bud Light earlier this year.

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The Boycott Against Bud Light

Essentially, Bud Light used a transgender influencer named Dylan Mulvaney to promote its beer on Instagram in April 2023, and conservatives were extremely displeased.

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In fact, so many people decided to boycott and refuse to purchase Bud Light that the company lost $385 million in revenue in just three months and has reported a 10.5% decrease in profits since the year before.

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The NAGA Boycott Has Yet to Begin

So far, NAGA and its supporters have not yet begun to boycott the NFL; it’s still only a threat if the league doesn’t meet their demands.

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But they have made their position extremely clear by stating, “[the] oppression and arbitrary and capricious recognition of U.S. history and Constitutional rights is not acceptable.”

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The Debate Continues

What’s so interesting about this debate is that there are American citizens, both indigenous and none, who support and oppose the name Redskins.

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Historically, the large majority of a particular ethnicity usually feel similarly about certain words and jokes, but in this case, the response from Native Americans is completely divided.

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Will the Washington Commanders Go Back to Being the Washington Redskins?

Whether or not the NAGA’s request and threat to boycott will actually force the NFL to change the name of the Washington Commanders back to the Redskins is yet to be seen.

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However, there’s no doubt that Native Americans, football fans, and really all American citizens are watching to see what will happen next.

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