By Guest Contributor Megan Red Shirt-Shaw
On the first morning of this year’s NFL Draft, I turned on the television to see an interview with the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell. Sitting in a suit and smiling, Goodell was asked about his favorite team growing up. After saying he had initially been a Baltimore Colts fan, he shared that he eventually became a huge Washington Redskins fan. A few voices from the studio audience let out a whoop in solidarity. I stood with my arms crossed watching the remainder of the interview, wishing like many young Native people that I could sit down and have a conversation with the commissioner of the NFL.
Conversations about the Redskins, Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves have successfully gained a lot of attention over the past year, with movements across the country arising including the “De-Chief” movement and Change the Mascot. House Democrats, and the league’s own Richard Sherman have come out in support of why the name change is important, especially with Donald Sterling’s public downfall in the NBA.
Beyond a deeper understanding of what the term “Redskin” means to Native people, there’s the issue of where that term is continuing to rise to the surface. What the adults on the wrong side of the conversation seem to forget, is who images of screaming painted Redskins fans or Eagles fans holding “Indian heads” on stakes truly impact the most – Native kids across the country who are just beginning to form their own identities as young, Indigenous members of society.
By Arturo R. García
The campaign against derogatory team names “honoring” Native American communities saw another flashpoint over the weekend, as a group of protesters in Cleveland encountered one local baseball fan who saw fit to paint his face red and wear a “headdress” before the hometown team’s 2014 home opener.
As Indian Country Today Media Network reported, the protest was led by Robert Roche, a member of the Cleveland Native American Movement. At one point, he was approached by the other man, who identified himself as “Rodriguez” and insisted his attire was not racist.
Instead, he reportedly claimed it was “Cleveland pride.”
“My children are not mascots,” Roche told WEWS-TV. “Why is it okay to be racist, derogatory or stereotyping us as a race of people here?”
However, CleveScene reported that fans attending the game took the low road:
It’s actually a shame for the civil Wahoo supporters that their comrades put on such an embarrassing and primitive display this afternoon. Only twice in three hours did Pro-Wahoo folks talk politely with the protesters about the root of their opposition and try to explain their own difficulties with the dehumanizing logo. (One man turned his Wahoo hat around as a little peace offering).
For the most part, though, passers-by hurled insults. A handful of boozy risk-takers sporting “Keep the Chief” tees walked directly in front of those holding signs, to taunt. Others distributed individual middle-fingers to each protester while inviting them to fuck themselves. Others launched the familiar hate speech — “Go back to the reservation,” etc.