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Washington Redskins name controversy

Washington Redskins game at FedExField, Landover, Maryland, October 2006

The Native American names and/or symbols by non-native sports teams is a harmful form of ethnic stereotyping that promote misunderstanding and prejudice which contributes to other problems faced by Native Americans.[1] The Washington, D.C. team is only one example of the larger controversy, but it receives the most public attention due to the name itself being defined as derogatory or insulting in modern dictionaries, and the prominence of the team representing the nation's capital.

Those officially censuring and/or demanding the name be changed include 23 Native American tribes and more than 50 organizations that represent various groups of Native Americans, the full list of which can be found below. There is also a growing number of public officials, sports commentators and other journalists advocating a change. In addition to picketing and other forms of direct protest, opponents took legal action to cancel the trademarks held by the team. On June 18, 2014, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) again voted to cancel the Redskins federal trademark registrations, considering them "disparaging to Native Americans".[2][3]

Support for continued use of the name has come from the team's owners and a majority of fans, which include some Native Americans. Supporters say that the name honors the achievements and virtues of Native Americans, and that it is not intended in a negative manner. Some, such as team president Bruce Allen,[4] also point to the use of Redskins by three high school teams, two on reservations, that have a majority of Native American students.[5] Supporters also assert that a majority of Native Americans themselves are not offended, based upon a public opinion poll in 2004 in which 90% of those who identified as American Indians answered that they were "not bothered" by the name "Redskins" being used for the Washington football team.[6] However in a commentary published soon after that poll, fifteen Native American scholars collaborated on a critique that stated that there were so many flaws in the Annenberg study that rather than being a measure of Native American opinion, it was an expression of white privilege and colonialism.[7] National public opinion polls consistently find that a majority of the general public support the team's continued use of the name, ranging from 89% in 1992 to 71% in September 2014.


The Washington Redskins were originally known as the Boston Braves. In 1933, the team moved from [11][13] The logo for the NFL Braves when Dietz became coach was similar to the current logo, a Native American head in profile with braids and trailing feathers.[14] The current logo, proposed by Walter Wetzel, a former Blackfeet tribal chairman and president of the National Congress of American Indians, was introduced in 1972 and is modeled after the likeness on the Buffalo nickel.[15] Members of the Blackfeet tribe today express a range of opinions, from support to indifference to strong opposition to the Redskins name based upon their personal experiences.[17]

Origin and meaning

Script logo used by the Redskins (1972–present)

The origin of the word "redskin" is debated. Some scholars say that it was coined by early settlers in reference to the skin tone of Native Americans, while others say it referred to the color of the body paint used by certain tribes. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, European Americans wanted a term which all could use to refer to all Native Americans in negotiating treaties that involved different tribes. They adopted the color

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