BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Change is coming to the National Football League after years of criticism. The Washington Redskins name and logo -- no more.
"Redskins is a racist name," Keith Burich, an emeritus professor of history said. "That name symbolizes the way that natives have been treated."
"I bring along a copy of Merriam Webster Dictionary when I speak, Donald Grinde, a professor of transnational studies at UB said. "It says, redskins: a racial slur."
It's a name change many call long overdue. Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. issued the following statement regarding the announced decision:
“After decades of perpetuating and promoting an offensive and racist nickname, change has finally come to the football franchise in Washington. It is a change that is long overdue. The Seneca people and Indigenous people everywhere are appreciative of the fact that this change is finally being made. Yet, it is clear that the team’s ownership did not make this decision out of respect and decency toward Indigenous people, who have been calling for this change for many years. Ultimately, it was the financial pressure exerted by corporations and the possible hit on the team’s wallet that drove the decision. We appreciate that companies like Nike, FedEx and others stood up to force the issue toward its rightful conclusion.
Whatever the reason, we are happy that the change is being made, and we hope that the team will engage the Native American community in a meaningful way as they create a new identity. If there was ever a moment to make a statement about how we can start to successfully move beyond the caricature and negative representations of Native culture, this is it. An organization that performs on a global stage and is based in the nation’s capital has the platform to make that statement. Not doing so would be a missed opportunity.
The change in Washington should not be an isolated occurrence. The use of Native American names and imagery needs to be looked at in a comprehensive manner. Communities, organizations and institutions at every level across the country should start those important conversations and heed the call for positive change.”
"The United States is becoming a multi-racial society," Grinde said. "Black Lives Matter has accentuated that. We must respect all people."
It's an issue Western New York knows well. In 2015, Lancaster High School dropped its Redskin mascot following calls for change from other schools.
"I found that most of the people, there was always a problem of oh it's traditional, it's a historic name," Burich said. "But most of them didn't understand why it was offensive."
According to a 2013 report from the National Congress of American Indians, more than 2,000 references offensive to Native Americans have been eliminated from all levels of sports since the late 1970s.
And more change could be on the way.
Jamestown Public Schools posted a message on its website regarding its school mascot, the Red Raiders.
"Given today’s climate and the important issues revolving around equity, it is vital that our community knows that we hear their concerns regarding the JHS logo, imagery and name. The voicing of these concerns creates an opportunity for JPS to hear, and work to understand, all points of view on the issues raised. It is also an invaluable educational lesson for our children to see our community come together to collaboratively work through an issue of community concern.
JPS is launching a community conversation regarding this issue. We have formed a committee of students, parents, staff and community members to hear stakeholder feedback. We are committed to seeing this process through. The subsequent introduction of legislation regarding this issue does not change our goal – to hear all sides of the issue and collaborate on a solution as a community.
As the logo and name have been a long-standing tradition at JHS, this cannot be an overnight solution. We hope by talking about concerns and viewpoints in a committee format, we will find a way to bridge understanding and create an outcome that will make everyone feel heard in the process."
"Any caricature that symbolizes aspects about Native Americans are the things they're going to reject or want to get rid of," Burich said.
Because it's all about making progress, having important conversations, and taking steps in the right direction.
"For so long, there were things you couldn't do to other people of color but you could still do to native people," Grinde said. "That's changing and that's a good sign not just for us, but for every group."