Redskins Name Will Change; Then It's Time to Get Our Communities Right
The name is going to change. Promise.
A few weeks ago, I gave the prediction that the Redskins would change their name within three years. Administratively, it can’t really happen any sooner, but the name will be an economic necessity—if the team was halfway competent on the field, maybe they could withstand a few years longer. But the team sucks and they’re not getting any better. Therefore, the team simply cannot sustain a) not being competitive AND b) constantly having to spend valuable bandwidth, time and dollars answering non-football questions.
Simple mathematics. For those Native who love the Redskins (like my son), cool, go get your officially licensed Redskins hats and t-shirts now—they will be collectors' items soon.
If it wasn’t a foregone conclusion before, the letter from half of the U.S. Senate and the recent trademark decision were pretty much the nails in the coffin. Now it’s simply a matter of time before this downward pressure—coming in two different directions—forces Federal Express and Bank of America to sever its relationship with the Redskins and the team really starts to suffer. FYI: For those Natives who are in favor of the team changing its name, FedEx and Bank of America are two of the Redskins’ major sponsors. Both companies benefit from TONS of tribal business. If I were seeking a place where the Redskins were vulnerable, I would start there and focus on working with YOUR PARTICULAR Tribe to write a letter to Federal Express and Bank of America and letting them know that your TRIBE (and all associated businesses) will consider using UPS for ALL shipping services and other Banks until they pull sponsorship from the Redskins. It’s not simply about the money that these companies would miss from Tribes/Native organizations; it’s also about the bad publicity they will receive. This whole ordeal is ultimately about money for Dan Snyder so this is where the rubber meets the road.
If Natives could get even 200 tribes to work in unison here and commit to pulling all business with both Fed Ex and Bank of America, the negotiations would start immediately. It’s called “divestment.” We can do it, but it takes discipline and commitment. A divestment campaign would show one way or another if tribes are indeed committed to this topic. For those who do not believe that Tribes have the ability/capital to effect change with a divestment campaign, they should look at the successful campaign begun by Uncle Billy Frank Jr. and Pacific Northwest Tribes to strategically stop partnerships with renowned Indian fighter Slade Gorton. NCAI, Pres. Cladoosby—you guys remember that victory. It was powerful! The Oneida Nation is on to something and this could really work. I’m proud of the way NCAI has circled around to make this a grassroots issue.
That’s a topic for another day. Safe to say, however, that we do have the power.
In that way, this Redskins victory—just like the trademark court victory—will be a very important victory for all Native people, even those who like the team name. Whether or not a Native person cares passionately about this topic or not this WILL undoubtedly be an important victory for Native people to show that with a concerted effort we CAN make a change. That’s big. Also, it shows that white supremacy against Native people will eventually change (whereas, for most other ethnic groups it simply won’t be tolerated at all). Still, for Native people, all victories are important—period.
Granted, this victory would have happened quicker if those organizing on this matter had gone to Indian Country and vetted the idea first and gotten grassroots support. Still, that’s also a discussion for another day.
Still, Native people’s actions FOLLOWING the name change will be at least as important as it was leading up to the name change. At that point, our communities will have an incredible amount of responsibility and work. That is because EVERY single issue that exists now in Indian Country will still be exactly the same AFTER the name change. The epidemics of suicide, alcoholism, domestic violence, diabetes, life expectancy, etc. will not magically change because of this victory. That’s to say nothing about the newer generation of existential issues within our communities like disenrollment, racism, IRA government vs. traditional government, loss of language, or the environmental crises like oil pipelines, man camps, and water rights.
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