Red Mesa Navajos Embrace “R” Word as Team Name

The Washington Post’s Ian Shapira wrote a front page feature on an Arizona high school football team that embraces the “R” word as a nickname:

More than half the school’s 220 students even accepted free tickets to watch the Washington NFL team play in Phoenix in October, where they confronted other Native Americans protesting the use of the team’s name. Amanda Blackhorse, the activist who is a lead plaintiff in the U.S. Patent Office suit against continued trademarking of the offensive name, hails from a town only an hour from Red Mesa. Though the University of Maryland reports that 62 high school sports teams in 22 U.S. states use the controversial name, and the populations served by those schools are mostly Native American, the offer of free tickets to the Arizona Cardinals game against Washington, smacks of bribery to achieve Native American public relations support for the D.C. team. Blackhorse called a Red Mesa school official, asking they not let the students be used for the NFL’s teams social gains. Some of the youth even wore free apparel the Washington team had given them, even though it was a home game for Arizona. One boy who plays for Red Mesa, said protestors called him a “sellout”. As if often the case with youngsters who have not lived during America’s ugliest eras of racial discrimination, ethnic slurs occupy a less objectifying presence, or have been embraced by those at whom they were once directed. A similar generational divide exists among some Black Americans concerning a slur used to denigrate them. The film “Casuse” will go a long way toward raising awareness about a young man who was not much older than the Red Mesa athletes, when he championed his people.

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