New Anti-Racist Mascot Bill


A recently introduced bill called the Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013 would seek to ban racist sports teams logos and mascots, specifically the “Redskins”. If the law is passed, it would force the Washington team to change its name and logo, and prevent future teams using the offensive term. The term Redskin, according to this article on Final Call, is “patently offensive, disparaging and demeaning and perpetrates a centuries-old stereotype against Native People”. There have been lawsuits in the past that have also tried to get the team to change its name, but the courts sided with the team, stating that the people suing had waited too long to sue. Now, over 50 organizations are trying to get rid of all Native American mascots and names in all sports. This particular bill focuses especially on the term “redskin” because it has a very negative connotation among Native Americans. Attorney Suzan Shown Harjo is quoted in the article as saying “To many Native Americans, the term ‘Redskins’ is associated with the barbaric practice of scalping”, as it refers to the body parts bounty hunters had so show to get rewards for killing Native Americans. The article explains that several Native American activist groups are coming together over the issue, which they see as unlikely to happen to any other race. The petitioners for the Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013 claim that “the word ‘redskins’ is a racial slur—like ‘chink’ or ‘wetback’ or ‘raghead’ or ‘the n-word’—and therefore shouldn’t be entitled to federal trademark protection”. To me, this has a lot to do with the media racial hegemony, which in this case puts Native Americans as lower than Asians and black people. The picture at the top of the article (which I attached to this blog post) compares a racist caricature of a black “coon” bobblehead doll right next to the Cleveland Indian’s racist mascot, Chief Wahoo. The similarities are striking, and it is easy for me to see why so many people are upset. This representation of Native Americans can be very damaging if no alternatives exist. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) wrote in court papers to the Supreme court that the “Redskins’ trademark is disparaging to Native Americans and perpetuates a centuries-old stereotype of Native Americans as ‘blood-thirsty savages,’ ‘noble warriors,’ and an ethnic group ‘frozen in history’”. This is very often the controlling image we see of Native Americans in the media, especially in westerns, but even in stories with more modern settings. It is confusing to me why in 2013 people try to defend these mascots and names, which are clearly racist. I understand that certain people care about the “history” of a team, but as the article pointed out, there would never be a sports team named after a slur for a different race, and it is puzzling to me that this has not already been changed.


One thought on “New Anti-Racist Mascot Bill

  1. Very good argument for why this bill should pass–it would help if fans and players would weigh in and let owners know that they support a name change. Take care when using terms that are offensive (even when in quotation marks)–more contextualizing of the term is needed and the posting doesn’t actually need the term in order for your points to be understood. Thanks!

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