Redskins, Indians and the Long Push to Drop Native American Mascots

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tags: racism, sports, Native American history

In the early 1970s, Stanford’s athletic teams were a source of great pride. They were also the target of simmering outrage.

Stanford won two consecutive Rose Bowls at the precise moment when Native American-themed mascots were being increasingly skewered as a cultural wrong. Around the time Jim Plunkett led the school to an upset of undefeated Ohio State in Pasadena in 1971, a group of the school’s Native American students launched a drive to dislodge the school’s nickname: the Indians.

Stanford dropped the name in 1972. Things changed dramatically. The new nickname eventually became the Cardinal (singular). The unofficial mascot? A tree.

Now the rest of the sports world has arrived at the same crossroads. The reasoning: Native American-themed names, traditions, logos and mascots—deemed inappropriate by one of the country’s top universities almost a half-century ago—have persisted into this moment of national social unrest over systemic racism.

That movement is forcing teams to finally address momentum that has built up—but often been ignored at the highest levels of American sports.

On Friday, after calls for change from fans, politicians and even their own business partners, the NFL’s Washington Redskins said they were conducting a review of their long-criticized name. The franchise will likely change its name before the start of 2020 season, two people familiar with the matter said.

A few hours later, MLB’s Cleveland Indians also said they were considering a name change, a year after retiring Chief Wahoo, a logo that had long been seen as a racist caricature.


The National Congress of American Indians, a 75-year-old organization that represents Native American and tribal rights, has long called for the elimination of all “derogatory” mascots.

“Indian mascots and stereotypes present a misleading image of Indian people and feed the historic myths that have been used to whitewash a history of oppression,” the organization’s website says. “Despite decades of work to eliminate the use of discrimination and derogatory images in American sports, the practice has not gone away.”

Read entire article at Wall Street Journal

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