By Mike Jones
The code talkers were a group of Native American service members who transmitted secret communications beginning in World War II.
Four representatives—Navajo Code Talkers Association President Peter MacDonald Sr., Vice President Roy Hawthorne and members George James Sr. and George Boyd Willie Sr.—were recognized during a commercial break during the first quarter of the Redskins’ game vs. the San Francisco 49ers. They stood in the end zone nearest the tunnel that leads to the Redskins’ locker room and received a round of applause while a video tribute to the code talkers played.
People quickly deemed this a PR stunt exploiting the codetalkers. The codetalkers didn't necessarily agree:
Navajo Code Talker says Redskins name not derogatory
Roy Hawthorne, 87, of Lupton, Ariz., was one of four Code Talkers honored for their service in World War II during the Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Hawthorne, vice president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, said the group's trip was paid for by the Redskins. The four men met briefly with team owner Dan Snyder but did not discuss the name, Hawthorne said.
Still, he said he would endorse the name if asked, and the televised appearance in which three of the Indians wore Redskins jackets spoke for itself.
"We didn't have that in mind but that is undoubtedly what we did do," Hawthorne said when asked if he was intending to send a statement with the appearance. "My opinion is that's a name that not only the team should keep, but that's a name that's American."
Natives condemn stunt
From LastRealIndians on Facebook:
Suzan Shown Harjo, the veteran critic of Indian mascots, wasn't buying it:
Red*kins 'Honor' Codetalkers—How Low Will They Go?
By Suzan Shown Harjo
But as soon as the Monday Night Football cameras picked up images of the veterans, a commentator began to remark on the split in Native American opinion about the team’s disparaging name.
The Washington franchise’s first stop was Poarch Band, the only tribe in the country that is building a casino on another nation’s sacred place–a known ceremonial ground, burials and historical site in Wetumpka, Alabama, the last capitol of the Muscogee (Creek) Nations before forced removal to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The franchise’s second big idea was to “honor” the four elderly veterans by having them stand in Red*kins jackets, so the money shot and story was not about their valor in war, but about supposed support for something most Native people are against. I can’t wait to see how low the franchise will go next.
"As a Navajo person, I understand the symbolic meaning of our Navajo Code Talkers, and we will continue to honor them for their service," Amanda Blackhorse wrote in an email to USA Today Sports. "The Code Talkers deserved a more genuine honor, not just 30 seconds of media time so the Washington team can sugarcoat their racism."
Blackhorse also had a message for Dan Snyder. "Using four Navajo elders does not justify what they are doing and does not change anything. At the end of the day, the name is still inappropriate and disparaging toward Native American people.” She also said, “Our views have not changed. Nothing has changed. We are still offended and outraged that he would parade around our elders and use them as a shield against the growing number of people who want him to do the right thing."
Redskins Owner Dan Snyder Says ‘Some of My Best Friends Are Navajo Code Talkers!’
By Dave Zirin
This was on display last night when Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins and under fire for profiting off a dictionary-defined racist name, used the national television cameras of ESPN to honor the Navajo Code Talkers. These were Navajo soldiers during World War II who used their language to create coded messages to be used over radio that could not be cracked by the Axis Powers. Their presence last night allowed Mike Tirico to bring up the entire “name controversy” on a terrain that made Dan Snyder look like he was honoring their heritage. Tirico also said that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had met with Native American leaders, which was not true. There was a meeting between the NFL and Native American leaders but Goodell did not show. Tirico also made no mention of Amanda Blackhorse, a Navajo woman who is currently leading a legal trademark challenge to get the name changed. Tirico also made no mention of the fact that the original “code talkers” were the Choctaw Nation in World War I, which for a decade has had a formal position voted upon by the tribal council to get the name changed. Instead, we were treated to the spectacle, three days before Thanksgiving, of Dan Snyder saying to America, “some of my best friends are Navajo Code Talkers!”
Make no mistake about it: wrapping yourself in World War II veterans is the last refuge of scoundrels. Just as the Republican Party during the government shutdown chose to make the World War II Memorial the great symbol of Barack Obama’s lack of patriotism and the true horrors of the government shutdown (forget about those kids not getting the cancer treatments at NIH), Dan Snyder was rushing for cover behind “the greatest generation.”
This was Dan Snyder trolling and lifting a big middle finger to the Oneida Nation, the American Indian Movement, the Choctaw Nation, the San Francisco Chronicle, Bob Costas, Cris Collinsworth, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, USA Today’s Christine Brennan, The Washington Post’s Mike Wise, the Capital News Service located at the University of Maryland, his alma mater, Charles Krauthammer, Republican Congressman from Oklahoma Tom Cole (one of two Native Americans in Congress), the DC City Council, the thousand people who marched outside the Redskins last nationally televised game against Minnesota chanting “Little Red Sambo Has Got to Go” and everyone who is said the name is racist and belongs nowhere but the dust bin of history.
By Tim Keown
Snyder trots out the Code Talkers while refusing to sit down and discuss the nickname issue with Oneida tribal leaders who are interested in helping him understand their concerns. He trots out the Code Talkers while refusing to acknowledge the legitimate opposition to the Redskins name -- an Oneida nation poll of Washington-area adults cited in USA Today showed 59 percent believed Native Americans would be justified in feeling offended by being called "redskin." He trots out the Code Talkers emboldened by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who has made support of the nickname into an official league stance with Congress and who didn't attend a league meeting with Oneida representatives.
But from a sociological and common-sense perspective, here's a pertinent question: How can this nickname--or any nickname, really--be considered so sacred? How much of your remaining dignity are you willing to shed for the cause? If the people you are attempting to "honor" with the name would like to speak to you about dishonor, hear them out. If it offends the people it is intending to "honor," change it. It's a nickname, not a religion. The Bullets are now the Wizards and the Hornets are now the Pelicans and when you get right down to it, this is all pretty low-level stuff.