Change the name


The ongoing acceptance of derogatory indigenous mascots

Protestors speak out against disparaging team names. Photo: common

Protestors speak out against disparaging team names. Photo: common

2016 can be marked as the year athletes gained attraction across all members of the population, with their ongoing social protests backing LGBTQ+ rights and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Although the progressive political mentality is fervent, it appears the indigenous population is largely forgotten in this movement towards proper recognition and quality, particularly is the naming of sports organizations. 

The NFL’s Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs, MLB’s Cleveland Indians and CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos are all sports institutions casually using derogatory terms towards members of the Indigenous population as mascots. These images and vocabulary chosen to represent a team’s roster and city are outdated and a reflection of the insensitivity towards a largely ignored culture in North America. It seems that we have become complacent in our ignorance to the foundation of these names, going as far as sporting overtly racist attire without a woe, all in the name of supporting our favourite teams . 

Although many continue that campaigns such as Change the Mascot are an evolution towards a censored, radically political-correct Utopia, these individuals are gravely mistaken as terms like redskin were used to describe the scalps of killed Aboriginals that were returned to the United States government in exchange for money, 1863. 

Leading the movement towards acceptable sports names is Ian Campeau, founding member of the indigenous electronic group A Tribe Called Red. He began his “Change the Name Campaign” in 2011 and has been recognized for his role in the transformation of Nepean youth football club mascot from the Redskins to the Eagles. 

Although the professional leagues appear aloof to the detriment of these team labels, as reflected by Dan Snyder owner of the Washington Redskins who told USA today, “We’ll never change the name, It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps,” there has been much more progress on the local level. In 2013 the National Congress of American Indians stated in 2013 that, “tribal advocates have succeeded in eliminating over tow-thirds of derogatory Indian sports mascots and logos over the past 50 years.” 

The ongoing demand for change has also been reverberated across Canada as Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national Inuit organization told CBC, “It’s time for the team - referring to the Edmonton Eskimo - to change its name. And it’s time also for all sports team to change their names if they continue to use indigenous people as their mascots.” 

To label these mascots as anything other than racist is a continued injustice and belittlement to the Indigenous population. Sports enthusiasts must acknowledge the world beyond the stadium with persisting inequity and inequality that often weaves itself into the corporate component of sports franchises and reject these offensive names as status quo.