New poll finds that 9 in 10 Native Americans not offended by 'Redskins' name
Some Native Americans think there are bigger issues to address than an NFL team's name
In May 2014, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder famously said, "We'll never change [the team's name]. It's that simple. NEVER -- you can use caps." In the two years since, letters have been sent, petitions have been filed, politicians have objected and the United States Patent Office cancelled the team's trademark registration after deeming "Redskins" a derogatory term.
But a new Washington Post poll shows that Native Americans are unmoved by a national effort to change the team's name.
The survey of 504 people in every state and the District reveals that the minds of Native Americans have remained unchanged since a 2004 poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found the exact same result. Responses to The Post's questions about the issue were broadly consistent regardless of age, income, education, political party or proximity to reservations.
Specifically, more than 7 in 10 Native Americans surveyed said they did not feel the word "Redskin" was disrespectful to Indians. And 8 in 10 responded that they would not be offended if a non-native called them that name.
There's more, via the Post survey:
Across every demographic group, the vast majority of Native Americans say the team's name does not offend them, including 80 percent who identify as politically liberal, 85 percent of college graduates, 90 percent of those enrolled in a tribe, 90 percent of non-football fans and 91 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 39. Even 9 in 10 of those who have heard a great deal about the controversy say they are not bothered by the name.
These results mirror the 2004 Annenberg survey mentioned above, which also found that 9 out of 10 Native Americans said they were not bothered by the Redskins name. Furthermore, the Post survey found that only 1 in 10 Native Americans say they consider this issue "very important."
"It's 100 people okay with the situation, and one person has a problem with it, and all of a sudden everyone has to conform," Judy Ann Joyner, 64, whose grandmother was part-Shawnee and part-Wyandot, told the Post. "You'll find people who don't like puppies and kittens and Santa Claus. It doesn't mean we're going to wipe them off the face of the earth."
Not surprisingly, Snyder fully embraces the latest results.
"The Washington Redskins team, our fans and community have always believed our name represents honor, respect, and pride," the owner said in a statement. "Today's Washington Post polling shows Native Americans agree. We are gratified by this overwhelming support from the Native American community and the team will proudly carry the Redskins name."
But that support is not unanimous. Ray Halbritter, an Oneida Indian Nation leader, has long opposed the name, saying in 2013 that, "Any other ethnic would not tolerate this kind of language being used about them that's so denigrating and dehumanizing."
And that same year, President Barack Obama told the Associated Press that he would "think about changing" the team's name because it offends "a sizable group of people."
So the question becomes, what constitutes "a sizable group of people?" The recent Post poll (it has a sampling error of 5.5 percent) shows that most Native Americans are unconcerned about the name, but Halbritter represents those Native Americans who do take issue with it.
"As the first sitting president to speak out against the Washington team name, President Obama's comments are truly historic," Halbritter said back in 2013. "The use of such an offensive term has negative consequences for the Native American community when it comes to issues of self-identity and imagery. We will continue to push our cause because this is about doing right by our children, who are especially impressionable. ...
"The NFL and [team owner Dan] Snyder should borrow a page from the President and use the changing of the football team's name as a teachable moment."
Three years later and nothing's changed. And there's no indication that it will.
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