Recently, I was interviewed (twice) by Adweek's David Gianatasio about the highly-problematic sports brand, The Washington Redskins. I received quite a bit of blowback from diehard fans on Twitter about my contention that the name is a racist anachronism that simply has to go away.
Interestingly, here in Ottawa, a local youth league football club who had named themselves after Washington's NFL franchise have just recently changed their name to the Eagles following a formal human rights complaint by Ojibway musician Ian Campeau from A Tribe Called Red.
Mr. Campeau spent two years campaigning against the Nepean Redskins name, and he says it taught him a lot about the continuing racism against Aboriginal peoples. "The backlash that this whole campaign has received to me tells me this is more than just football," he said. "It's about the entitlement of being able to label an oppressed people, to call somebody they have no ties to... that word."
Meanwhile, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder says he will never change the name of his team. But Native Americans and their allies are gaining force. The Oneida Indian Nation was first to speak out. Now National Congress of American Indians has joined in the opposition, backed by leaders from seven different groups: Cathy Abramson, Councilmember, Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians; Al Goozmer, President, Tyonek Native Village of Alaska; Brian Cladoosby, Chairman, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and President, NCAI; Edwina Butler Wolfe, Governor, Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma; Leander McDonald, Tribal Chairman, Spirit Lake Tribe; Dennis Welsh, Chairman, Colorado River Indian Tribes; Candace Bossard, Councilmember, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. Even President Obama has weighed in.
In my opinion, this is a human rights issue, not matter of "how many people" support the NFL or other regulators taking action to force a name change. But as we have seen with other human rights issues, such as equal marriage, it doesn't hurt to get public opinion on your side.
That's where this PSA comes in. My blogging colleague Marc just posted it on Osocio:
Simple, powerful and truthful, this video released by the Oneida — right before this weekend's Super Bowl — is the "hearts and minds" campaign the cause needs, exactly when it needs it.
You, too, can take action at changethemascot.org.