Should the Washington Redskins Change Their Name? After Indians Remove Chief Wahoo, Advocates Urge NFL Team To Follow Suit

With the Cleveland Indians announcing Monday they'd phase out their Chief Wahoo logo—deemed by many to be a racist, cartoonish depiction of Native Americans—many folks quickly turned their attention to the Washington Redskins.

"Cleveland's decision should finally compel the Washington football team to make the same honorable decision," said Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and the leader of the Change the Mascot campaign, in a statement. 

Change the Mascot is a campaign formed to urge Washington to change its team name and educate people on "damaging effects on Native Americans arising from the continued use of the R-word." 

"For too long, people of color have been stereotyped with these kinds of hurtful symbols— and no symbol is more hurtful than the football team in the nation's capital using a dictionary-defined racial slur as its team name," Halbritter said in the statement. "Washington owner Dan Snyder needs to look at Cleveland's move and then look in the mirror and ask whether he wants to be forever known as the most famous purveyor of bigotry in modern sports, or if he wants to finally stand on the right side of history and change his team’s name. We hope he chooses the latter."

Reached via email by Newsweek, a representative for Washington declined to comment. 

In the past, Washington has steadfastly refused to change its name and has claimed it honors Native Americans.

"We will never change the name of the team," Snyder told USA Today in 2013. "As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it's all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season." Even if it became a hindrance in business matters, Snyder told USA Today it wasn't going anywhere, saying, "we'll never change the name... It's that simple. NEVER—you can use caps."

According to NPR, franchise lore suggests the team was named for former coach William "Lone Star" Dietz in 1933. (Dietz identified as Native American, but the truth of that claim has come into question.) While the team name has been defined as a slur, a highly publicized Washington Post poll found nine out of 10 Native Americans weren't offended by the franchise's nickname. The team rushed to celebrate the results, while name-change activists noted this showed Native Americans' resiliency. And others argued that even if the poll was correct and a small minority was offended by the name, shouldn't the change still happen?

The change announced in Cleveland isn't exactly a 180-degree turn: The logo won't disappear from the team's uniforms and stadium until 2019, and even then "Wahoo" merchandise will still be sold locally. But it still naturally led many to wonder if it might finally be the catalyst for Snyder's franchise.

It appears that debate isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

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