Redskins Name Will Change; Then It's Time to Get Our Communities Right

Gyasi Ross

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.

Symbols count.

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.

Next time.


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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boujoie's picture
Submitted by boujoie on
Thank you, Big Indian Gyasi. This is an excellent, well thought out and well presented article. You are succinct and clear in your suggestions for us all. As a former Washington, D.C. resident and avid local football fan for 25 years, I've been following the current 'skins' arguments with great interest. Thanks to all who are being moved to participate in this awakening and reclamation. Blessings to Us All. JB- Anishinabe-Ojibwe

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
It's been a tough road, but I see some leeway amongst the people I argue with on YouTube over this controversy. It seems to me that more and more people are chiming in on our behalf. Of course there will always be the rabid fan who will defend the team name over anything, and certainly there are the redneck racists who will defend the team name simply because they know we don't like it (it's traditional), but change is in the wind. Hopefully, the team name will join other antiquated notions of race like Little Black Sambo and the Frito Bandito.

Lynne McCreary
Lynne McCreary
Submitted by Lynne McCreary on
Sorry but I am for no more Native American on anything. I find it funny that you will redefine Warriors for use totally but a name used for teams by Native Americans you got a problem with. That and the promise that this will not stop till it is all gone because everything "Whites" have done- do or named is "Offensive". The answer is very simple remove it all. For "Whites " to do as has been demanded of them and stay out of everything Native American. End of fight. Easy

Lynne McCreary
Lynne McCreary
Submitted by Lynne McCreary on
Seems the willingness to insult ones own is big. You would go so far as change the definition of "Warriors" . You yelling about ANYTHING Native American NOT to be used by "WHITES" for any reason as is a INSULT. Why is it that Native Americans are not yelling for the DNA of everyone in the USA?

Shongaska's picture
Submitted by Shongaska on
Several years back I wrote the following in response to all the racist comments in the aftermath of the University Of North Dakota finally getting rid of their nickname: "I am a native elder in Oklahoma and work with troubled juveniles. I know whereof I speak. All of you racist knotheads out there pay attention. Substantial and ever increasing evidence supports the fact that native people, particularly children, are negatively impacted by the racial implications of using native mascots, nicknames, logos, etc. Self esteem and a positive self image are necessary for all of our children. To discontinue the use of these racial references is a huge step towards happier, healthier native children and a better tomorrow for us all. Once more, "We reserve the right to choose what is insulting to us." Get It ?" Today, the same holds true regarding the use of the Washington professional football team's name. A high school coach in Kansas said something like. "While I might not fully understand the racist implication, I am not mean spirited and if it insults a large group of people, I won't use the names." A considerate, fair minded response compared to many that believe they can better tell the native people when to feel honored and when to feel offended. It is time to truly be inclusive, Oklahoma and stop the use of racial references. Dwain Camp, Elder, Ponca Nation

Sammy7's picture
Submitted by Sammy7 on
Washington Der Sniks R word reversed

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
TO LYNN McCREARY: You said: "Sorry but I am for no more Native American on anything. I find it funny that you will redefine Warriors for use totally but a name used for teams by Native Americans you got a problem with." ___________________________________________________________ I'm guessing English is your second language. It's difficult, but I'll try to answer your questions. First, the team name in question is a racial slur. Native Americans are NOT the only warriors in history. It's fine if you name your team the Warriors, but you can't use a goofy, buck-toothed, red guy with a feather in his headband and tell us you're "honoring" us. _____________________________________________________________ You said: "For "Whites " to do as has been demanded of them and stay out of everything Native American. End of fight. Easy: ____________________________________________________________ We are not demanding anything. We are not asking for any race to STAY OUT of our culture. We are requesting the same respect given other cultures in the U.S. Native Americans have always been a very welcoming people (and look what it got us). We simply request that you you observe some respect for us as a people. Is that too much to ask? ____________________________________________________________ You can learn a lot about a people if you walk amonst them dressed as one of their highly decorated warriors simply because the "costume" is available for purchase, especially if that clothing is taboo to women. You can learn a lot about a people if you walk among them dressed as a caricature of their culture. You can learn a lot about a people if you view them through stereotypes. You can learn a lot about a people if you belittle their concerns, especially in the name of a multi-million dollar sports franchise. You're NOT, however, going to see their best side when the day is over.