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:
In a full page ad, Washington Jewish Week offered a two-year subscription to the winner of a contest to name the Washington NFL team:
Casuse is the story of Larry Casuse, a young Native American activist and inspiration to his peers. Growing up in Gallup, New Mexico, Larry witnessed the rampant alcoholism, racism and poverty imposed on his Navajo people. Alcohol was banned on tribal land, but the most profitable business in town was located just across the road. The Navajo Inn, a liquor store and bar owned by Gallup’s Mayor, preyed on Larry’s community. As a 19-year-old student at the University of New Mexico, Casuse worked relentlessly to organize his fellow activists. When Gallup’s Mayor was elected to the Board of Regents at UNM, Larry took it upon himself to voice the outrage he and his people felt. His voice was loud, but not listened to enough. Frustrated by his inability to affect change through the system and influenced by the tumultuous political climate of the early 70’s, Casuse kidnapped the Mayor in an effort to expose his hypocrisy. Just days after the Siege at Wounded Knee began, Larry Casuse died in a shootout with police on March 1, 1973.
Fast forward 40 years. The week of the largest public demonstration against the offensive name of the Washington pro football franchise, Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Jim Souhan conceived of a pair of acronyms to better describe the team, WARTS, and LOSERS.
I won’t use the slur the team insists on keeping as its nickname, so the team will henceforth be known in this space as WARTS (Washington Area Racially Titled Slackers) or LOSERS (Landover Organization Seen as Egotistical Racists). Or maybe BIGOTs — Badly Imaged Gridiron Organization run by Tyrant — is a better fit.
As part of the growing body of journalists, news outlets, and others, who either refuse to print or utter the Washington football franchise name, or have raised media objections to it, Souhan is to be commended. The issues and conditions Casuse sought to illuminate, have not improved in many Native American communities and “reservations” across the U.S.
Washington Post sportswriter Mike Wise reports on the largest public protest against the offensive name of the Washington NFL team:
In an example of the remarks between the protestors and the fans attending the game between Washington and Minnesota:
“We don’t want to be your mascots,” the Crow Creek Sioux man said, over and over. “My kids are not your mascots.”
Clearly, Washington’s quarterback Robert Griffin III, is an insensitive to the racial slur as team owner Daniel Snyder. Before the game, Griffin told his teammates:
“We got a hostile environment!” Griffin said in an emotional pregame speech caught on camera. “It’s Us vs. Them . . . This is for us! For the helmet! For the name on the front of your jersey! Let’s go. One-two-three, work!”
For his part, Snyder’s most recent defense of the objectifying name, is that when the franchise was originally names in 1935, the term was not offensive. Never mind that the term has always been offensive to many, but Snyder’s logic, would rationalize naming a sports franchise or college team other ethnic slurs which have become not only socially unacceptable, but banned from network television.
Larry Casuse was a young Native American activist who championed the cause of the Navajo nation. More than 40 years later, millions of Americans, including those who exploit the symbols of Native American culture for profit, are unenlightened regarding the plight and treatment of our indigenous people. Award-winning Washington Post fashion columnist Robin Givhan addresses the controversy over the Washington football mascot, and its offensive tradition of Native American symbolism.
Givhan discusses how Native American culture has long been appropriated in an insensitive manner for commercial gain:
Fashion has long had its way with Native American totems — the weathered profile of male elders, the striking patterns created by Navajo weavers, the romance of teepees and feather war bonnets. The borrowing and stealing from Native Americans is often done with blithe disregard for propriety, because there is a misguided belief that “there aren’t any of them left — that they are a thing of the past that can be idealized,” says Jane Blocker, a professor at the University of Minnesota who specializes in contemporary art.
For Givhan, the Native American sports imagery issue is one of respect, as she states:
“Removing a war bonnet from its original context is disrespectful. Doing a creative riff on it is disrespectful.”
A radio station owned by Washington NFL ownner Daniel Snyder defended its use of the offensive team name. WWXX 94.9 FM in the Greater D.C. market, is responding to a petition filed by a George Washington University law school professor, and three local Native American radio professionals, to the FCC to ban station usage of the name on the grounds it is hate speech.
National Public Radio has joined the movement against use of the racial slur “R—skins”, by asking journalists to limit use of the term during their broadcasts. While not banning the term, the network discouraged staff from mentioning or writing the offensive term unless it is absolutely required for clarity, or in coverage of the controversy surrounding the name. This follows the Washington Post’s editorial board discontinuing use of the slur.
The following article covers the NPR decision:
When the Washington NFL team plays the Minnesota Vikings on November 2, Minnesota Native American leaders have planned the largest protest ever concerning the racist name of the D.C. team. Activists from seven states are scheduled to participate in the demonstration outside the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium. The university asked the Vikings to limit the use of the Washington team name in promotions of the upcoming game. The Minnesota Vikings pay university $300,000 to use their stadium while their new facility is being built. The locally based National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media, wants Native Americans singing the National Anthem before the game, and involved in the halftime show. There are 100,000 Native Americans living in Minnesota.
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