Demonstrators to target Chief Wahoo at Cleveland Indians home opener

By Mark Naymilk, Northeast Ohio Media Group

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Native Americans and others who believe the Cleveland Indians’ mascot, Chief Wahoo, is a demeaning caricature plan to demonstrate outside Progressive Field on Friday during the baseball team’s home opener.

Organizers behind the demonstration have tried to rally people against Wahoo on opening day for more than 20 years, though team owners and baseball fans have generally ignored them. In some years, only a handful of demonstrators have stood with signs against Wahoo.

Organizers hope to find greater support this year because of the renewed attention Wahoo has received in the growing national debate over sports mascots and names sparked by the NFL’s Washington Redskins’ controversy.

The Plain Dealer editorial board recently called on the Cleveland Indians’ owners to drop the smiling, big-toothed, big-nosed cartoon Indian, which has been used for more than 60 years.

Ferne Clements, who has helped organize the demonstration for 21 years, says she can’t predict whether or not support for the protest will grow this year.

“But the message hasn’t changed,” said Clements, who works with the Native American advocacy group, The Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance. “We can’t settle for anything less than a name and logo change. The logo is racist and the name does not honor Native Americans.”

Team owners, who have largely remained silent in the debate, have said the team has no plans to dump Wahoo, which remains popular with fans.

As they do each year, the demonstrators plan to march at 12:30 p.m. from West 25th Street and Detroit Avenue to Progressive Filed, where they will stay until about 3 p.m.

Other Native American organizations are also participating in opening-day demonstrations against Wahoo, according to Facebook postings and email messages.

Ferne, who is not Native American, said she and others are already looking ahead to 2015, which marks the 100th Anniversary of the team name.

Loss of Trademark Would Be Final Straw for Washington Redskins’ Name


By Brad Gagnon , NFC East Lead Writer

Mar 21, 2014 Bleacher Report

Those who defend the Washington Redskins‘ right to be called the Washington Redskins despite the fact the name is considered by many—including, um, dictionaries—to be disparaging, offensive and flat-out racist, do so because, as my 10-year-old nephew likes to say, it’s a free country, and Dan Snyder owns the team.

They’re right. Snyder paid $800 million for the franchise and its stadium in 1999 and thus has the right to keep the name in place, as he has said he’ll do, according to

The problem is that it seems many supporters of the name falsely believe that Snyder is standing firm based solely on some sort of emotional allegiance to it, when really this is about dollars and cents.

If the name starts costing Snyder money, I can assure you that sentimentality will go out the window.

And if the the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revokes the league’s federal trademark protection on the name “Redskins,” Snyder, his team and the entire league will lose money.

The good news for those who are pro-Redskins is that while that office has indeed been reviewing a case regarding the NFL‘s use of the Washington Redskins’ trademark, it has been doing so for about eight years.

And while a bill was recently introduced in the United States House of Representatives to amend the Trademark Act of 1946 to void any trademark registrations that disparage Native Americans, that has also stalled.

But the bad news for those who are pro-racist nickname is that every new Redskins-related product application made to the Patent and Trademark Office of late has been swatted away in Dikembe Mutombo fashion.

From The Associated Press (via

“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected another product with “Redskin” in the name, the latest sign that it might rule against the Washington Redskins in an ongoing trademark case.

The agency said Monday that “Washington Redskin Potatoes” would be considered disparaging because the product doesn’t contain redskin potatoes and therefore would be associated with the football team.

The ruling then stated that current evidence reflects that “a substantial composite of Native American Indians find the current use of ‘Redskins’ in conjunction with football disparaging.”

The agency issued a similar ruling in January, rejecting “Redskins Hog Rinds.””

As Patrick Hruby from Sports On Earth establishes, the cost of changing the name is tantamount to peanuts. We’re talking about one, maybe two Adam Archuletas (sorry for adding salt to the wound, ‘Skins fans).

ESPN and ABC News sports business correspondent Darren Rovell told Keith Olbermann last year that changing names would be a wash in terms of profits/losses, while Olbermann himself believes Snyder would actually make money doing so.

Regardless, if trademark protection is lost and everyone else on the planet gains the right to manufacture and sell products that contain the team’s name and logo without owing the league a dime, Snyder’s hand will be forced.

And that’ll be a good thing, because based on polls as well as the multitude of lawsuits launched in this regard from dozens of Native organizations, it’s safe to conclude that thousands of Americans are personally offended by the name.

Changing it won’t hurt a soul. So even if that change takes place due to reasons that have nothing to do with compassion, a change is a change.

Pelosi Says Trademark Office Should Not Protect ‘Redskins’

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiAssociated Press
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
Associated Press
Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that the word “redskins” should not be a protected trademark.

RELATED Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Says ‘No’ to ‘Redskins’

“We all respect freedom of speech, but the [U.S. Patent and] Trademark office has rejected names which are considered offensive and they should do it now,” Pelosi said at an event hosted by the National Congress of American Indians. “They can keep their name on the team, but when it comes to all the stuff — that’s serious money. So I think that is one path that we can go.”

Pelosi told The Hill in October, that the name should change saying that the “R-word” is insulting and a racial slur to Native American people. “”It’s time to choose another name,” she said during the NCAI event. “In fact, it’s long overdue.”

This is the first time that Ms. Pelosi has publicly put pressure on the trademark office to use its power to make a change. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office declined to offer a statement on Pelosi’s remarks, the Huff Post said.

The office has rejected related trademarks such as, Redskins Fanatic, Redskin Rooters and ICTMN reported that Redskins Hog Rinds was also rejected in January due to “redskins” being a “derogatory term.”

RELATED Patent Office: Your ‘Redskins’ Pork Rinds Are Racist, Trademark Denied

A lawsuit to revoke the NFL team’s name is currently pending before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board and in January, The Washington Post said that a decision was expected soon. In 1992, Suzan Harjo brought a similar suit but it was thrown out on a technicality in 2009.



Redskins Run the Wrong Play, Again, With ‘Community Voices’ Campaign


After a series of missteps during the NFL season, the Washington Redskins’ press office is continuing its recent tradition of incompetence here in the offseason with “Community Voices,” a series of articles that quote fans who do not object to the team’s name, which is defined in most dictionaries as a racial slur.

“My grandfather was three fourths Cherokee,” reads one testimonial, provided by Penny Pitre of Round Rock, Texas. “I am not offended. I have been a Redskin fan since I was a child. Keep up the good fight, tradition and honor.”

“I have loved the Redskins for many years and do not think that a change in name is necessary,” writes Carolyn Blevins of Bristol, Virginia. “Anyway, I am part Cherokee Indian and do not find the name one bit offensive. The Redskins have a great heritage and I do not think that anything should change.”

The “Community Voices” material fits the general idea that the Redskins press office has been pushing for months — that scattered personal statements of support from people claiming to be Indians are proof that the name is not offensive.

On the other side of the ball are eminent leaders, civil rights organizations, Tribal groups, and politicians (including President Obama) who have said that the name needs to go.

In previous attempts to push back on the broad support for a name change, the Redskins press office has:

—Presented irrelevant anecdotes about high school football teams who proudly go by the name Redskins.

—Publicized a fabricated a story about the Redskins logo being designed by Pine Ridge residents.

—Published supportive comments by a “full-blooded Inuit chief” who turned out to be neither full-blooded nor a chief.

—Repeatedly cited a 2004 Annenberg poll that has been criticized as flawed.

—Issued a December press release —a precursor to “Community Voices”—that contained brief statements supportive of the name from two ostensibly representative Native fans. One of the individuas picked, it was revealed, had a history of mental health issues, and had previously been a prostitute and a crack addict, prompting one ICTMN reader to ask “This is the person they use to represent Natives in their press release…?” The other person quoted in that December press release identified herself as a member of the “Iroquois tribe,” a suspicious designation given that Iroquois is the name of a confederacy of six nations — in our experience, a Native usually identifies him- or herself as Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca or Tuscarora, rather than “Iroquois.” (The December press release was issued the day after members of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights voted unanimously for a resolution urging a name change.)

The “Community Voices” campaign, like the efforts that preceded it, is not likely to win the Redskins any points with the media or national groups involved in the debate—indeed, it’s a press release that seems to court ridicule by the press.

From ThinkProgress: “The major problem with Community Voices is that it ignores the actual claims Native Americans who don’t like the name make against it. Community Voices tells us that there are football fans and Native Americans who support the name, but no one disputes that. What Community Voices doesn’t address is the actual claims some Native Americans make against it. Community Voices doesn’t dispute (or attempt to dispute) whether the name is an offensive term.”

From The team contends that, in response to owner Daniel Snyder’s October 2013 letter to fans defending the team name, the organization received more than 7,000 letters and emails of support, with nearly 200 coming from people who identified themselves as Native Americans or family members of Native Americans. The team claims that only seven letters were received from Native Americans who oppose the team name. It’s an entirely unscientific exercise, oozing with potential bias and lacking any evidence of vetting. It also ignores the organized effort against the name

But to those who are dead-set against a name change, it’s fuel. It’s more confusing verbiage that makes them think they might win this thing and get to keep their racist slur of a name. The militant supporters of the team’s name don’t seem to know it, but they’re rapidly approaching a fourth-and-very long scenario, and no amount of laughable cut-and-paste press releases the team issues will change that. But it’s plain to everyone else that pretty soon there is only going to be one play left:




The Washington Redskins Had An Incredibly Awkward Tribute To Native American Veterans

navajo-code-breakersCork Gaines, November 26, 2013, Business Insider

The NFL is using the month of November to salute members of the military and veterans.

The Washington Redskins decided to use this as an opportunity to honor both the military and Native Americans during the Monday Night Football game.

During a commercial break, a video tribute (see video below) was shown honoring the Navajo Code Breakers of World War II. The video, which was only shown in the stadium and not on ESPN, included old clips of both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush speaking about the veterans. After the video, four of the veterans were shown on the field.

The timing of the tribute raised a lot of eyebrows as it felt like a forced moment in the middle of the current controversy surrounding the team’s continued use of a name that many deem to be racially insensitive. The inclusion in the video of a Native American reciting “Hail to the Redskins!” felt scripted and the veterans on the field wearing jackets with Redskins logos added to the awkwardness of the moment.

Here is video of both the clip shown in the stadium and the scene on the field…


NFL still dragging its feet on racial matters

Members of the America Nazi party demonstrate against desegregating the Washington Redskins football team in 1961.
Members of the America Nazi party demonstrate against desegregating the Washington Redskins football team in 1961.

By Vince Devlin, Buffalo Post

Offended that the professional football team headquartered in our nation’s capital still uses a racial slur as its team mascot?

Then you may not be surprised with what was going on with Washington’s NFL franchise in 1961, as Indian Country Today Media Network reported while pointing out a photograph resurrected by Mother Jones magazine.

Back then, the football team owned by the late George Preston Marshall was the last all-white squad in the NFL, and American Nazis marched to encourage him to keep it that way.

One of the signs they held says, “Mr. Marshall, Keep Redskins White!”

When it comes to offensive statements, that would seem the equivalent of piling on. It is relevant today, as ICTMN noted, because current owner Dan Snyder is battling to keep Redskins as the team nickname. (Mother Jones, by the way, refuses to, and redacts the nickname in its stories.)

Both sites refer to Thomas G. Smith’s 2012 book, “JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins,” where Smith wrote that Marshall was as upset about the federal government forcing him to integrate (Washington’s stadium is on federal land) as he was at the prospect of diversity.

“Why negroes particularly?” he asked. “Why not make us hire a player from another race? In fact, why not a woman? Of course, we have had players who played like girls, but never an actual girl player.”

The Kennedy administration gave Marshall a choice: let black players on his team, or go find another stadium to play in. The team was integrated, but more than half a century later, many believe Washington’s NFL team is still dragging its feet on racial matters.

Minneapolis AIM Chairman: Redskins ‘Offensive and Against the Law’

By Vincent Schilling, Indian Country Today Media Network

The American Indian Movement of Minneapolis plans to hold a demonstration march and protest against the Thursday November 7, 2013 Redskins vs. Vikings NFL game to be played at the Minneapolis Metrodome.

Mike Forcia, Chairman of AIM in Minneapolis, tells ICTMN that “The name should have been changed 20 years ago. Yes we have more pressing issues but it doesn’t mean we are going to back off of this issue. This is what the media jumps on.”

Forcia said that just as many supporters could be found at a moment’s notice to protest against such things as the Keystone XL Pipeline or the troubles facing the Indian Child Welfare Act, and that this mainstream notice could also be a catalyst for the awareness of other issues.

A graphic, created to announce the event, that was posted by Forcia on Facebook.
A graphic, created to announce the event, that was posted by Forcia on Facebook.

“This is a publicly funded stadium and there is a lot of racism going on. What about the Fourth Amendment, in which we are all entitled to life, liberty and happiness? If they have these statutes that say no racism, then the [NFL] commissioner has to say we cannot have the Redskins because it is offensive and it is against the law.”

Forcia said that for him, it isn’t just about the logo. It is the behavior at the games.

“I don’t mind something like the North Dakota fighting Sioux logo. Yes, the Cleveland Indians logo is offensive, but it is more about the connotation and the actions of the fans. You hear things like, ‘we are going to scalp those Indians, we are going to send those Indians back to the reservation’ or you see the Tomahawk chop. It is the antics that are at the crux of this whole thing.”

“If you had the Saints and Angels playing and we were all dressed up like the Pope or a priest or a sister or a nun and we were all their swinging around our Rosaries, splashing holy water on people – they probably wouldn’t like it very much. “

Forcia is looking forward to November 7th, and is asking for anyone with hand drums or big drums to show their support, and is also inviting any supporters of the Occupy or Idle No More movements to bring their own protest signs and lend support. He also says Native women will be called to take their place as leaders in the Native community.

“It will be starting at the Minneapolis American Indian Center.  We are walking down Franklin Avenue, down Chicago Avenue, and right on down to the field. I think this is going to be ground zero. I think that after November 7, it won’t be very long ’til they change the name.”



NCAI Welcome President Obama’s Support to Change Offensive NFL Team Name


President Obama joins the DC Mayor and City Council, leaders inCongress, and state governments around the country.
President Obama joins the DC Mayor and City Council, leaders in
Congress, and state governments around the country.

Source: Native News Network

WASHINGTON – In an interview with the Associated Press, President Obama joined the growing chorus of Americans calling for the Washington NFL Team to consider changing its name.

The President noted that the team name is offensive to a “sizeable group of people.” Obama also affirmed the “real and legitimate concerns” of Native peoples – and many others – calling for the team to drop the “R” word.

“President Obama’s remarks underscore the fact that has become increasingly obvious – the Washington franchise is on the wrong side of history,”

said NCAI President Jefferson Keel in a statement responding to the President’s remarks of support.

“The “R” word is a racial slur, deeply offensive to Native Americans. It originated in the bounty paid for Native body parts and human flesh. It does not honor Native peoples in any way and has no place in modern American society.”

“It’s 2013. It’s time for leadership at the Washington team to heed the growing chorus – from high school students to Commissioner Goodell, and now the President of the United States – and close the chapter on this offensive name,”

added NCAI Executive Director Jacqueline Pata.

Background on the 45 Year Effort to Urge the Washington Team to “Drop the R Word”

Removing the name and caricatures associated with the Washington football team and other denigrating sports teams and mascots has long been the position of NCAI, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of the nation’s 566 tribal governments and the over 5.2 million Native peoples.

In a soon to be released background paper on the era of racist “Indian” sports mascots, the organization underscores the importance of dropping the “R” word and provides contemporary and historical background on the need to end the era of harmful and racist mascots. Among the key insights from the paper:

  • The Washington team’s name is part of the racist legacy of the franchise, most prominently represented by former owner George Preston Marshall’s hard fought campaign against racial integration.
  • Native organizations and tribal nations have undertaken a sustained 45 year campaign to get Washington to change the name – since the team’s name was registered as a trademark.
  • President Obama joins the DC Mayor and City Council, leaders in Congress, and state governments around the country who have called for an end to racist “Indian” mascots.
  • There is a growing sense from the NFL itself that considering a name change is warranted. This year alone, Rodger Goodell has noted that “if one person is offended we have to listen” and has responded to racial language by Riley Cooper (who used the “N word”) by calling it “obviously wrong, insensitive, and unacceptable.” Also, former Washington Hall of Famers Art Monk and Darrell Green said a name change “deserves and warrants conversation” because it is offensive to Native peoples.
  • There is a diverse and growing chorus of organizations standing against the racist name and sporting teams (from high school to college) dropping the “R” word.

Opponents of Racist D.C. Mascot to Hold Event at NFL Fall Meeting

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The Oneida Indian Nation is taking its ‘Change the Mascot’ campaign a step further.

On Monday, October 7th, the Nation plans to convene in Washington, D.C. to hold a public conference calling on the NFL and its teams to end the use of the slur, Redskins.

The conference, which will be held in the Ritz Carlton, in the same hotel as the NFL’s Fall Meeting, is open to the public and press.

This conference comes just weeks after the Nation broadcast its “Change the Mascot” radio advertisements, and months after students at Cooperstown Central School District in Cooperstown, New York, made national news by voting to change their teams’ name from ‘Redskins’ to the ‘Hawkeyes.’

“As proud sponsors of the NFL, we are encouraged by how many leaders are standing up, speaking out and joining the grassroots effort to get the Washington team to do the right thing and change its name,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter in an earlier news release.

The Nation, along with U.S. Lawmakers: Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), and special guests hope to spur a discussion that will lead to change.

“We should be treated as what we are: Americans,” Halbritter said.



The ‘Blackskins’ Story: A Strong Image Provokes a Strong Reaction

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

On Friday, ICTMN published an essay, “Fun Racism Quiz: Would NFL Have a Team Called Washington Blackskins?”, and provocative image by Gerard Miller that he had published some time ago, as a college undergraduate. Miller, an African American, said that the piece had convinced some of his fellow students — ones who didn’t care about the controversy over the Redskins football team name — that it was an issue they should care about.

The image is a strong one, and it inspired strong reactions from many of our Facebook followers, as well as debate in a comment thread that has now stretched to over 500 entries. There are many insightful comments in the thread—and many that aren’t insightful.

Wayde Sid McCloud contributed one of the first responses, and to some extent hit the nail on the head: “When the African American cries racism, America has your back 100%. When Native Americans talk about racism towards them, it’s ignored!”

He may be exaggerating with “has your back 100%” but it’s safe to say that America has developed pretty good radar when it comes to racist images and words directed at African Americans. The Blackskins image is obviously racist. Nobody could argue that it is a “tribute” to African Americans. Through perseverance, the black community has largely succeeded in educating the rest of America about what images and words are disrespectful and harmful—but, unfortunately, Native Americans haven’t gotten to that stage. When Natives call out an image as racist, they are often challenged. Everything from “It’s a tribute” to “You’re just being politically correct” to “It’s a tradition—get over it.” Would anyone advance those same arguments to a black person who was (rightfully) offended by the Blackskins image?

Some commenters (and there is no telling, on Facebook, whether the people chiming in have read the article) saw the Blackskins image as a “cheap shot” directed at African Americans, and wondered why American Indians would “attack” another group that also faces discrimination but isn’t involved in the Redskins mascot discussions. The Blackskins image was not an attack on African Americans.

Look how far we have come—from a country that allowed slavery 150 years ago to one in which the Blackskins image would not be tolerated for a second. Every thinking American sees that it is racist, and that’s laudable progress. And “Blackskins” isn’t even a racial slur anyone uses.

Unfortunately, take the same image, substitute a 19th-century conception of a noble Indian and print the word “Redskins—which is a slur according to any dictionary—beneath it, and America goes blind to the racism. So blind that it’s considered suitable for t-shirts, bumper stickers, and baby attire. And that’s the point. American Indians have seen black Americans make great strides in reclaiming human dignity after brutal historic oppression. Black Americans in the year 2013 have made progress toward that mountaintop, and as a black man, Gerard Miller knows that. He also knows that American Indians would like to catch up.