Associated Press

9 Ways to Argue Against ‘Redskins’ Name Without Offending Other Groups


Over the past several months, ICTMN has provided a significant amount of coverage on the ongoing controversy over the Washington Redskins name. As a result of this coverage, ICTMN has seen numerous responses and conversations on social media regarding its coverage of the Washington Redskins. Not all of it has been supportive.

According to several accounts on Twitter, Natives are often guilty of throwing other races under the bus in order to lambaste the Washington team. But Indian Country can fight this fight without bringing in another race or ethnic group. I have taken this opportunity to think outside the box and make several arguments that are “our own.”

The term Redskin indicates the bounty once placed on Native American skin.

According to a multitude of Native Historians and historical accounts, the term "Redskin" denotes money paid toward the eradication of Native Americans. An example is provided by Dallas Goldtooth, who posted an 1863 newspaper clipping on his Facebook page that advertised a reward for dead Indians as ‘$200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory.’ In his post, Goldtooth wrote, “It was only five generations ago that a white man could get money for one of my grandfather’s scalps.”

A newspaper clipping from The Daily Republican that Goldtooth posted on his Facebook page

RELATED Dakota Man Exposes Vile History of 'Redskins'

Trademarks deemed racist are illegal under U.S. federal law.

Since 1905, federal trademark law has banned ‘scandalous or immoral’ trademarks. In 1947, trademarks that disparage, bring into contempt or disrepute persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols were also banned.

In a case now before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Blackhorse et al. v. Pro-Football Inc., Amanda Blackhorse (Navajo) and five others are seeking to remove the federal trademark rights from the "Redskins."

If Blackhorse wins the case, the Washington NFL franchise will not be allowed to make money from the use of the Redskins trademark because the term will be deemed racist.

“The name Redskins hurts me."

This may seem like a simple point, but it is a no less valid point. If you are personally hurt by the term, no reasonable person can argue that away.

The name incites inappropriate and disgraceful behavior from football fans.

The Tomahawk Chop and horribly painted faces under Halloween headdresses are not just offensive, they are demeaning. Feathers are sacred to Native people, yet they are worn in mockery during sporting events.

During sacred ceremonies, in which Native people wear regalia or sing in their sacred languages and hold ceremony, alcohol is not used. A Google search of "Redskins" fans can turn up some pretty horrible results about over-indulgence with alcohol.

An inappropriate Redskins fan

We’ve been fighting this fight for decades.

Whoever says Native people are just now picking this fight can do some research on Suzan Harjo, an amazing Native American activist who has been fighting against the use of Native Mascots since the 1960s. Other research will uncover a decade’s long battle involving the American Indian Movement and several others who have long been fighting this fight.

RELATED Red*kins 'Honor' Codetalkers—How Low Will They Go?

The word Redskin is an English word; we didn’t start this.

In a recent interview on the Joe Madison Sirius XM Radio Program, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian Director Kevin Gover made a valid point about Native American’s using the term "Redskin." After citing the fact that Redskin was an English word, Gover said, “The Indians probably just asked what people called them—if they were told Redskin, than that is the term they would use.”

President Barack Obama, the NFL Commissioner and Senator Dorgan and many other leaders have questioned the Redskins name.

Native American organizations are not alone in their desire for the Redskins to change their name. President Barack Obama, Senator Byron Dorgan, NFL Commissioner Goodell, sportscaster Bob Costas, former Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask and several news organizations have questioned the use of the "Redskins" name.

President Obama talks to the AP on "redskins" name-change. (Associated Press)

President Obama told the Associated Press in October, “If I were the owner of a team and I knew that there was a name of my team--even if it had a storied history--that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”

RELATED Obama Says Redskins Should Think Seriously About Changing Name

Two Redskin Hall of Famers are against the name.

For serious "Redskin" fans, perhaps citing two players now against the name might give them something to think about. In an ICTMN article, “Art Monk and Darrell Green, both inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2008, told Washington’s WTOP-FM 103.5 that if Native Americans take umbrage with the name Redskins, or the like, then a name change should be “seriously considered.”

RELATED Two Redskins Hall of Famers Favor Changing Offensive Team Name

Responding to the ever popular, “What if I am offended by the ‘Insert Team Name’ because I am a ‘Insert Racial Group’?”

Examples might be, “I am Irish, what if I am offended by the ‘Fighting Irish’?” Or “I’m Scandinavian, I am offended by the Vikings.” Or “I am a twin; I am offended by the Twins.”

My response is always the same: If you were offended by it, I will stand right beside you if you decide to fight against it.

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Joe Cool's picture
Joe Cool
Submitted by Joe Cool on
The Fighting Irish name comes from Catholic irish students at Notre Dame, a catholic university, who stood up to the protestant KKK in Indiana. The Vikings were named by the numerous people of scandinavian heritage in minnesota. Anyone who makes those arguments is ignorant. five minutes on wikipedia would teach them.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I am a descendant of Vikings and Fighting Irish. I find those names to be non derogatory so not offensive. Redskin was never ever meant to be used with pride by the Native people.

Jet's picture
Submitted by Jet on
Unfortunately, racism exists in all variations of the human species and usually the racist is insecure and ignorant. I choose to identify humans by their deeds and actions rather than skin color/race. Prejudice against people by birth characteristics is inherently wrong and I strongly stand against it. However, being "offended" is a choice and very subjective. Many people are offended by different words for a myriad of reasons; even seemingly benign words. Do you mean that if anyone is offended by any word, you will stand behind someone's "right" to fight or ban the word? Aren't we getting into a really dangerous arena? Banning words deemed offensive... and by whom? Some people are offended by the word "white" or even "mixed-blood" since both are increasingly used derisively. Both the words "Indian" and "Caucasian" are misnomers - should both be banned? Where does this end? What about the right to free speech? Is it subjective? What about curse words? Aren't there plenty of people offended by those?Personally, I don't like the word "bump", I hate the sound of it and it offends me. I've heard it used derisively. Should it be banned? I disagree vehemently with some people's views (especially when they are racist), but will stand behind their right to free speech everytime.

alexjacobs's picture
Submitted by alexjacobs on
In my research I've seen the old newspapers, ads, posters, $1 FOR REDSKIN SCALPS (or INDIAN) SCALPS...then another posting for $1 AN ACRE FOR INDIAN LAND...Do the Math...kill an Indian, scalp them, get an acre of land... The early Indians said, whatever you call us, just don't call us "you", as long as we are recognized as different, we are not you...

Kevan Doxtater's picture
Kevan Doxtater
Submitted by Kevan Doxtater on
Is'nt the name indian a nname given bt a lost europeon. Did our anscestors refer to themselves as their tribe? Is not andrew jackson responsible for the hitler like acts of our people? Wky not ban him from the twenty dollar bill. why are you not talking about this. Do you know the history of that democrat henry sibley of Minnesota and what he did to the SIOUX? His name is placed all over the state honoring him. Why is it you make a stink over that beautiful logo but not of these ACTUAL genocidal murderer's. Let's concentrate on the real disgrace. REMOVE andew jackson from the twenty dollar bill and henry sibley's name from all roads, schools and from all public places that honor him.

Julian Jobe's picture
Julian Jobe
Submitted by Julian Jobe on
Change the name!!! Teams change there name nothing changes, I can't beleive we as a people have let this go on as long as it has!!!!!

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
To Kevan Doxtater below: Those indignations might be worth pursuing, but they don't receive as much publicity OR as many negative instances (people with $20 bills don't do the tomahawk chop or dress like NDNs). The mark of an intelligent warrior is one who picks the fights he can win. One step at a time. It will be awhile before we can take on the money - there are more fans of American money than there are Redskins fans.

Butts Larue
Butts Larue
Submitted by Butts Larue on
funny coming from the organization that published two intentionally offensive, racist images with the "Blackskins" and "Rednecks" logos.

jazon's picture
Submitted by jazon on
i got a good new name for that Washington holocust kikes it take racist jewish team owner to keep that racist slur as team name

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

HontasF's picture
Submitted by HontasF on
As a person of African and American Indian heritages I am so glad you published this. You left out the most common one of the more counterproductive comparisons. BLACKFACE. As one who feels the insult from both Blackface and redface, REDFACE IS WORSE by far. Redface is the taking of authentic pieces of numerous cultures, stereotyping all Indians with them, then mocking all of us with our own imagery. Blackface is just a stereotype from the outside compared to that. The comparison of the two types of mocking of a stereotyped version of our cultures hasn't lead anywhere, makes many NDN's look racist (as they use the N word to make the point at times), and hasn't gotten us anywhere. It may even have set us back four or five years.

RobynL's picture
Submitted by RobynL on
In reply to Jet: re being offended by words will become too complicated for society...................................................................................................................... There isn't much to the slippery slope argument of comparing of being offended by a word vs. fighting systemic and widespread oppression, discrimination, and attempted genocide as is recorded toward Native Americans, even to this day, which included the active use of a term meant to demean and dehumanize.......................................................................................... If any group, be them Irish or Vikings, have a case for this kind of demeaning and dehumanizing history in North America, then yes, let's all stand up for their rights to equality and civility too.

Steve Gagne's picture
Steve Gagne
Submitted by Steve Gagne on
Redskins? Redskins as an insult? Redskins, as in Beothuk warriors? The Beothuk were scarier than William Wallace and his "Blue Man Group" of Scotsmen when they attacked the Brits (even if they wore the same costumes). I mean, if I were to use the term "Redskins" (which I don't) I would be meaning those mighty warriors, and not a bunch of human bowling balls throwing themselves at each other around a stadium for money.

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