Racism in the NFL

“The name honors the heritage of the Native Americans, so don’t take it literally.”

“But it’s just a mascot, don’t be so sensitive.”

“That name is a part of the proud tradition of the NFL, so as long as there’s football, there will be the Washington R*dskins.”

Here’s another example of the majority deciding for the minority what their rights are.

The majority has decided the minority group doesn’t deserve to be heard, their opinion doesn’t matter, and the answer from the majority remains: “tough, just deal with it.”

Native Americans make up less than 1 percent of the American population. If any other racial group spoke out and said “that’s a racial slur against my people” the word would be known as racist and no one would ever say that word without expecting serious backlash. Take a look at what happened to Paula Deen if you don’t believe me.

Have you ever met a Native American? Have you ever asked a Native American what is offensive or what is a racial slur? I’m going to guess that if you disagree with me, then the answer is no. And that’s the difference between you and me.

I’ve met many, many Native Americans. And guess what? Every single one of them has told me that the Washington R*dskins is racist, it’s offensive, and it’s as derogatory as the N word.

If the R*dskins isn’t derogatory, then why have several national publications refused to print that word in their sports section? Slate, The New Republic, and Mother Jones refer to the team as “the Washington NFL team” – which is what I always said when I covered football on my radio show in Minnesota many years ago.

Even Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said that if the team ever wanted to move from Maryland back into D.C. then the name would have to change. He also refuses to say the R word when referring to the D.C. team.

The truth of the matter is, in the 1800s, the word went from being a negative term to something extremely hateful. Everyday people, journalists and politicians called for the extinction of the R*dskin race.

If you recall something called “The Trail of Tears” – where Native Americans were forced out of their homes in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee because the white settlers and the United States government wanted that land to grow crops and cotton fields?

In 1830, tens of thousands of Native Americans walked from the southern states to Oklahoma without supplies. The United States Army gave them blankets from a small pox hospital in the hopes that the entire race would die off before they reached the land designated as “Indian Country.” People, that’s the definition of genocide. (By the way, that special designated land for this minority group was long gone – taken from them again – by the time Oklahoma applied for statehood in 1907.)

Just as the N word reminds people of slavery, the R word reminds the Native Americans of a time when they were abused, mistreated, and afraid for their very lives. And yes, if you know your history, both slavery and the persecution of the Native Americans took place during the same time period. 

It didn’t matter if they learned how to read or how to write or how to speak in perfect English. It didn’t matter if they dressed “appropriately” and held down businesses. It didn’t matter if they paid taxes. They were R*dskins. Their race was seen as inferior.

So the next time someone wants to honor the Native American people in the NFL, maybe the NFL should consult some tribal leaders first instead of slapping a racial slur across every helmet and jersey.

By the way – it’s not one or two Native Americans saying it’s a racist slur – there are entire tribes protesting the R name across the country. I stood proudly with them and protested in the coldest months of the Minnesota winter to make a point: if the Native Americans feel that name is racist, who are we to say it’s not?

20 thoughts on “Racism in the NFL

  1. Jesse u are 100% correct, I really hope u consider running for President because u are so in-touch with the people and u keep it 100!!

  2. Yeah, the ones that are making the excuses are the ones that are not affected. I bet NA are fed up with being told how to think and act, at least the ones I know personally sure are. Let them decide for themselves and just pick a new name.

  3. As a member of the first nations I would like to thank you. It is always appreciated however unfortunately necessary that someone like you has to point out problems like this while our requests go ignored by many.

  4. This is, perhaps, the best article I’ve seen on this subject for some time. Clear, concise, straight to the point – Telling it like it is. I wish that more people would stand up for the truth and speak out this way!!! This is how REAL “change” begins!!! Great work !!!

  5. I don’t understand why they continue to fight changing the name. When its obviously a slur against the First People. How many times have you or I heard or read this Racist saying, ” the only good R*skin is a dead R*skin…” or sometimes the word Indian is inserted.

  6. Personally I don’t understand the issue here. My father is Cherokee and he hasn’t found “redskin” offensive in the 64 years he’s been on this planet. Really none of dad’s family has. What we do find offensive is calling them “indians” which they are clearly NOT. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I trace my lineage to the only tribe still at war with the United States.

      • There’s still a small tribe in North Carolina who retreated into the mountains, looked at the US and said “Come and get us” and the US never did because they knew it would be a blood bath on both sides. I’m from THAT tribe. It’s not peace. It’s more the inability to fight back. Not that they really would anymore. The shit they get from the US government isn’t worth giving up.

  7. Have you heard “Just Say No To The R-Word” by Shadowyze? It’s on the Two Worlds Indigenous Radio show online at: wmnf.org/programs/168


  9. Jesse, when you’re right you’re right! The reason this is still a problem is because my people, (I’m Ojibwe and cousin to all Indigenous peoples of this continent), have been losing an ongoing onslaught by the preeminent world power, the USA. the propaganda machine has been very effective as an adjunct to genocide.

  10. THANK YOU! We certainly need more people like you and your followers! The N word has been banned all other the world, it’s time, in 2013, to ban the R world: There is no more excuse for it!

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