October 07, 2013 –
Washington, DC – In an interview with the Associated Press, President Obama joined the growing chorus of Americans calling for the Washington NFL Team to consider changing its name. The President noted that the team name is offensive to a “sizeable group of people.” Obama also affirmed the “real and legitimate concerns” of Native peoples – and many others – calling for the team to drop the “R” word.
“President Obama’s remarks underscore the fact that has become increasingly obvious – the Washington franchise is on the wrong side of history,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel in a statement responding to the President’s remarks of support. “The “R” word is a racial slur, deeply offensive to Native Americans. It originated in the bounty paid for Native body parts and human flesh. It does not honor Native peoples in any way and has no place in modern American society.”
“It’s 2013. It’s time for leadership at the Washington team to heed the growing chorus – from high school students to Commissioner Goodell, and now the President of the United States – and close the chapter on this offensive name,“ added NCAI Executive Director Jacqueline Pata.
Background on the 45 Year Effort to Urge the Washington Team to “Drop the R Word”
Removing the name and caricatures associated with the Washington football team and other denigrating sports teams and mascots has long been the position of NCAI, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of the nation’s 566 tribal governments and the over 5.2 million Native peoples.
In a soon to be released background paper on the era of racist “Indian” sports mascots, the organization underscores the importance of dropping the “R” word and provides contemporary and historical background on the need to end the era of harmful and racist mascots. Among the key insights from the paper:
- The Washington team’s name is part of the racist legacy of the franchise, most prominently represented by former owner George Preston Marshall’s hard fought campaign against racial integration.
- Native organizations and tribal nations have undertaken a sustained 45 year campaign to get Washington to change the name – since the team’s name was registered as a trademark.
- President Obama joins the DC Mayor and City Council, leaders in Congress, and state governments around the country who have called for an end to racist “Indian” mascots.
- There is a growing sense from the NFL itself that considering a name change is warranted. This year alone, Rodger Goodell has noted that “if one person is offended we have to listen” and has responded to racial language by Riley Cooper (who used the “N word”) by calling it “obviously wrong, insensitive, and unacceptable.” Also, former Washington Hall of Famers Art Monk and Darrell Green said a name change “deserves and warrants conversation” because it is offensive to Native peoples.
- There is a diverse and growing chorus of organizations standing against the racist name and sporting teams (from high school to college) dropping the “R” word.