Whenever the question of the Washington team name arises, the organization hides behind a deeply flawed (and, earlier this year, completely debunked) poll finding that 90 percent of all Native Americans are not offended by the name. (Which means, of course, that’s it’s perfectly acceptable to the team for 10 percent of all Native Americans to be offended by it.)
It’s hard to reconcile that poll with the official position of the National Congress of American Indians, “the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities.” The NCAI opposes the name.
On Monday, the NCAI applauded Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser for speaking out against the Washington nickname. Last week, she said that it’s “past time” for the name to change.
“Mayor Bowser’s statement represents a watershed development in Indian Country’s decades-long struggle to remove this and the many other offensive and degrading Native ‘themed’ mascots from sports and popular culture,” NCAI president Fawn Sharp said in a statement. “In this historic moment for racial justice, Mayor Bowser’s declaration reflects the growing tide among our nation’s leaders and all Americans to choose respect for Native people and all other people of color by ridding our country of the symbols of racism and intolerance that have long marginalized and dehumanized us.”
Again, this isn’t the result of a poll that has provided a phony safe harbor for an organization that refuses to deal with the fact that the name is a dictionary-defined racial slur. It’s the official position of a group founded in 1944 to speak for Native Americans nationally and collectively.
Hopefully, more will listen to these messages. Hopefully, more will speak the truth. Hopefully, change will come. If the NFL wants to lead from ahead and not from behind, this is a change that needs to be made now.