Starting with the Washington Redskins of the NFL. Sure, they have no “economic” incentive to change their name–it is not the job of capitalism to instill values–but this is one of those things that we are going to look back on in 40-50 years (hopefully a lot sooner) and think, “Wow, look at what complete racist idiots we were back then!” Think about it. Can you imagine a pro sports team today called the Alabama Blackskins?
“Redskins” is not any different, and it has been a very long battle to change the name.
The organization may argue they have no economic incentive to change, but that argument is about as dumb as molasses… didn’t slave owners try to make that case? ‘We’d lose money, so we can’t stop, duh!‘
Unfortunately it’s not limited to one NFL team… college sports teams (including my alma mater) still use Native American names and/or mascots.
“But what if the tribe agreed to it?”
It’s not that simple.
Can you imagine the backlash a tribe would get if they refused? How would they be seen in the community? There is a power-differential at play here. Institutional racism.
Mainstream sports media has played into this problem as well. A few years ago Sports Illustrated ran an article about a “study” they did that purported to show that there really wasn’t any controversy, and Native Americans were generally in favor of the Redskins, and the Fighting Sioux, and the Indians. SI also refused to release their research methods… hmm… Also good reading, if you’re interested (and this is from a professional journal): Of Polls and Race Prejudice: Sports Illustrated’s Errant “Indian Wars.”
I went to the University of Utah. I saw the “Runnin’ Utes” play in the 1998 Final Four with my father. It is one of my most cherished memories. Later on I graduated from the U. I was a Ute.
Only I wasn’t. I don’t own any part of the name, and I have not paid the price to be a member of the tribe. I got all the fanfare and affiliation and pride without all the baggage. Schools like the U giving out some scholarships in exchange for the supposed “agreement” between with the school doesn’t make it better.
A professor who studies these issues compared it to a chocolate covered turd. Changing the mascots to something less offensive while keeping the name covers the turd with chocolate. The problem is still there.
I’m convinced that eventually these names will ALL be changed and will be shut away in the “what a bunch of dumb racists we all were” category. Perhaps this is why I have a *little* more patience for people like Brigham Young, for example, who banned blacks from receiving the LDS (Mormon) priesthood, because they were “cursed.” That took until 1978 to be reversed.
Will these changes take as long? Maybe. There may not be any religious dogma involved, but there is a lot of money and a lot of emotions wrapped up in this issue.
We need a willingness to talk with others without arguing. We need to talk with people close to us, and those within our sphere of influence. I’m still a bit shell-shocked due to my positive feelings associated with the name of my favorite basketball team.
Many of us DO have great memories associated with these teams.
That doesn’t make it right.