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Changing Names

CONTROVERSY EDITION

Over half a century ago there was a major shift within American sport popularity. At the time, television was quickly becoming a staple household good and the fast pace of American football translated better onto the screen than the slower tempo of the previous chief sport; baseball.


American football's popularity, regardless of when it topped the charts, has been domestically consistent, with every team's large fan-base growing annually. This consistency, however, doesn’t deter occasional change. Rather, it’s the sports popularity itself which spurred a major recent change to American Football.


The Washington Football Team, previously known as the Washington Redskins, is based in the Washington metropolitan area and is one of the league's oldest and most-storied franchises. While the team played an integral part of the league during its time as the “Redskins'', their logo and general branding have experienced a recent change. Their jersey colors - white, burgundy and gold - have remained, but the logo pasted on their helmets hasn’t. Prior to the change, the team’s logo featured the obverse side of a Buffalo nickel with the head of a Native American. Noticeably, the Native American’s skin color matched the burgundy of the jerseys. To correct what was an inaccurate and stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans, the team removed the logo and officially renamed themselves as the Washington Football Team.


The image of the Washington Redskins did not at first appear radical, especially in comparison to teams such as the Cleveland Indians baseball team who had Chief Wahoo (a drastic caricature of a Native American) as their mascot. Recently, however, awareness in regards to what may be offensive has increased. Native Americans have protested against the name, logo and mascot of the football team, which led to the eventual change. While changes have been made, the controversy being the “Redskins” was only propelled once Native Americans began protesting what they perceived as an offensive depiction of their culture. The fact that the football team’s image wasn’t regularly seen as controversial prior to the protests reveals the existence of ingrained perspectives. The depictors, in this case the Washington-based organization, and the depicted, the Native American population, too often fall short of mutual understanding and appreciation.


The team is now looking into new name possibilities. A replacement quickly growing in approval is the “Red Tails.” The name is inspired by the Tuskegee Airmen - a group of primarily African-American military pilots during WWII who painted the tails of their plains red. Their impressive performance during the war earned them several Distinguished Flying Crosses. This new option matches the already existing colors and also brings light to a deserving subject.

Changing Names

Nick Jester