In response to outrage by some American Indians and a variety of left-leaning activists who insisted the name was racist, the NFL team based in Washington, D.C., halted the use of its longstanding “Redskins” moniker in 2020.
After using the generic “Washington Football Team” name, the franchise ultimately settled on “Commanders” as a replacement.
Suzan Harjo, an American Indian activist who had been pushing for a name change for decades, celebrated the new name when it was unveiled in 2022.
“You could be glib about it and say, well, you know, look how long it took; but at bottom, it is remarkable,” she said, adding: “A lot of people now get it — that it’s not all right to use disparaging terms, derogatory names, slurs, images, behaviors.”
Not all American Indians agree with her assessment, though.
One Change.org petition launched in June by the American Indian Guardian’s Association calls for the restoration of the team’s former name. As of Tuesday, it had attracted more than 100,000 signatures.
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According to the petition, the Redskins name should not be seen as offensive, but instead recognized for its “deep cultural, historical, and emotional significance, honoring the bravery, resilience, and warrior spirit associated with Native American culture.”
Rather than being adopted as a form of racism, NAGA asserted that it was intended “as a symbol of respect and admiration.”
Billy Dieckman, an adviser to the group and member of the Kiowa Tribe, elaborated on the argument during a recent Fox News Channel appearance.
“The deep, rich history behind the name, the myth that it means bloody scalps or something derogatory is what we’re trying to dispel,” he said. “It’s a status symbol for elite warriors.”
Complaining that the Redskins name was rescinded without sufficient input from the American Indian community, Dieckman provided some historical context about the image that represented the team for decades.
“The imagery that you see is that of Chief Two Guns White Calf,” he explained. “That’s a real person. There’s a lot of times they say you need to get rid of your mascot. We don’t have a mascot. That’s a real person that was gifted to the Redskins in the NFL by the Blackfoot tribe as a forever gift. That’s one of the greatest warriors of all time.”
As the petition concludes: “Changing the name abruptly disregards the positive legacy that the Redskins name has built over the years and disorients the passionate fans who have invested their emotions, time, and unwavering support in the team.”