Native Americans in Philanthropy calls on its members and partners to join hundreds of Native organizers and Native-led organizations across the country in a letter asking Roger Goodell and the National Football League to change the Washington NFL team name, imagery, and stop all related offensive practices.
Anti-Indigenous racism is so deeply ingrained into everyday life that it is even on display during a Sunday football game. The name of a professional athletic team may seem trivial but it is wholly indicative of the dehumanization of Indigenous people that contributes to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, to oil pipelines being built through our homelands and sacred sites, and to the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in our communities..
The use of the Washington R*dsk*ns slur and other Native American mascots has been proven to have negative psychological effects on Native Americans, particularly our youth. According to Stephanie Fryberg, PhD, University of Arizona, “American Indian mascots are harmful not only because they are often negative, but because they remind American Indians of the limited ways in which others see them. This in turn restricts the number of ways American Indians can see themselves.”
It’s at this time, after the world witnessed the slow, agonizing death of yet another unarmed black man in the streets of Minneapolis, that all are re-examining how they contribute to a system that strips Black, Indigenous, and people of color of their humanity, their dignity, and all too often, their lives. We thank those who believe that the fight for justice and racial equality is multi-faceted and who stand in support of Native American and Indigenous peoples. We, too, believe that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
In the spirit of that unity, Native Americans in Philanthropy calls upon our members, partners and colleagues to add their names in support of eliminating the Washington NFL team name and end all use of the harmful stereotypical branding and imagery associated with so-called “Indian” mascots. Our fundamental goals for Native visibility, opportunity, cultural strength, and prosperity cannot be attained without clearing away a highly visible slur that enables harassment, promotes negative stereotypes, and damages the self-esteem and mental well-being of Native people. We cannot strive for Indigenous excellence without removing the implements of anti-Indigeneity.
Ending the use of the Washington R*dsk*ns name and image would make a long-overdue statement that such overt racism and disrespect is unacceptable towards any group of people. It will not cure the many challenges in our communities alone, but it is a crucial step forward toward an inclusive and respectful future for Native people and true equality for all.