February 11, 2013

Redskins "respond" to NMAI symposium

If you're wondering how the Washington Redskins might respond to the NMAI's symposium on racist mascots, wonder no longer. Here's what passes for their response:

'We Are Very Proud To Be Called Redskins'"We are very proud of our athletic teams and very proud to be called Redskins!"

These are the words of Coshocton High School athletic director George Hemming, who serves as the athletic director for just one of the 70 different High Schools in 25 states are known as the Redskins.

Redskins.com found that there are almost as many schools using the name Redskins as Cowboys, as only 75 schools use the name Cowboys, and interestingly just 19 use the name Giants.

Coshocton High School is located in east central Ohio which has a rich Native American history. Hemming said "the name represents to us competition and pride."
The posting goes on in that vein for a while. It makes only one reference to the pro football team:These schools' athletes have a deep connection, just as the Washington Redskins alumni, and many high school student-athletes have pride in calling themselves Redskins.Yeah, and the South had a deep connection to slavery. So the hell what?

Reactions to the reaction

Along with everyone else, you're probably wondering "Is that it?" Some reactions to this posting:

Washington Redskins “Proudly” Defend Their Name In The Dumbest Way Possible

By Drew MagaryPrincipal Steve Cowser said... the name shows their "pride for the Native Americans and how they lived."

It will shock you to learn that neither Cowser nor Hemming are of Native American descent. You'll notice that both men use the word "pride" as an empty platitude when attempting to spin the unspinnable. "We're really proud of these people we know nothing about!" NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also barfed up a similar talking point when publicly defending the name, using his patented lifeless delivery:

"I think Dan Snyder and the organization have made it very clear that they are proud of that name and that heritage, and I think the fans are, too."

In this case, pride means virtually nothing. A team could be nicknamed the Buttchuggers and people associated with it would still be "proud" of them, whatever the hell that means. The Eagles are a proud franchise. The Giants are a proud franchise. Pride is the single most abundant commodity in the sporting universe. It has about as much value as a Canadian penny. Furthermore, you can clumsily justify virtually any long-standing practice just by saying the words "pride" and "heritage," as if the history of having a remarkably offensive team name somehow renders it inoffensive, which is logic for stupid people.

Of course, none of this really has anything to do with pride. The reason Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell are both loath to change the name "Redskins" is because the Washington Redskins brand is worth over a billion dollars, and changing the team name would have a (likely temporary) negative impact on the franchise's brand equity.
Redskins' Defensive Tales of High School 'Pride' Fail to ConvinceThe article does not explain how the opinions of non-Native high school coaches and principals, however proud they may be, makes the term any less hurtful to the people it describes.

Further, the implication that such opinions can inform the judgment of an NFL franchise may strike some readers as a topsy-turvy, highly selective argument. If the Redskins are truly soliciting opinions on the value of their Native American name and logo, there are plenty already out there--from the Native American community itself. An NFL team seeking and publishing commentary from a non-Native high school coach in Ohio while ignoring the voluminous criticism from such groups as the National Congress of American Indians could rightly bee seen as, well, offensive.
Natives deny the "honor"

Some of those Native opinions:

Native Americans speak on sports imagery

By Paul LukasOne of the day's recurring themes was a strong rejection of the notion that American Indian mascots and team names somehow "honor" Native Americans. Here's a sampling of thoughts that were offered on that idea:

• From E. Newton Jackson, professor of sports management at the University of North Florida and a member of Cherokee Tribes of South Carolina: "How does one person tell another that they honor them best? How do we do that when I'm telling you that what you're saying and doing does not honor me?"

• From Lois Risling, land specialist for the Hoopa Valley Tribes, who attended Stanford University in the early 1970s, when the school's teams were known as the Indians and were cheered on to "scalp the [Cal] bear": "We were told it was an honor to have an Indian mascot chosen as the symbol as a great university. When 55 of us presented a petition to have the name and symbol changed, we were told we were all taking it too personal and should just get over it. When we said Prince Lightfoot [the school's live mascot at the time] was wearing clothing that was wrong, and that his dance was wrong, we were told, 'Stanford Indians dress like this, and anyone who goes to Stanford is a Stanford Indian, so that makes it OK.'"

• From John Orendorff, a U.S. Army colonel and Native American: "I often feel that the underlying point of these 'honors' is that my Indian heritage is owned by others. The message I'm constantly getting is, 'We own you. We will define how we honor you. Don't tell us whether you like it or not, because we own you. When we hunt down Osama Bin Laden, we can refer to him as Geronimo--which happens to be my son's name--because we own you. You don't control how you're perceived. We control that. Because we own you.'"
Comment:  It's pathetic how weak the pro-Redskins arguments are. Indians say the name is offensive; non-Indians say it isn't. And...that's it. White people get to tell Indians how to think and feel--and get to contradict the dictionary--because they're white. Once again, it's white privilege in action.

Orendorff's comments are especially good. I've said similar things before. Being an Indian mascot is like being a trophy on a wall or a display in a museum. It lets non-Indians feel good about the Indians their ancestors conquered and killed. It lets them dismiss thoughts about the ongoing injustices toward Indians--for instance, the failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act.

For more on the Washington Redskins, see Rob Quoted on Washington Redskins, Indians Are "Whiners," Not Warriors? and "Redskins" Approaching a Tipping Point?

Below:  "A graphic showing the helmet design of the McLoud Redskins, a high school foorball team in Oklahoma." I.e., Indians as savage spearchuckers.


Anonymous said...

Wait, this is the extent of how farfetched ad illogical some of these arguments are. This officer is really claiming he is offended because Bin Laden's proword was Geronimo?

Rob said...

A lot of Indians were offended by giving Bin Laden the codename "Geronimo." I posted about this extensively when it happened in 2011. You can see these postings here: