Invoking such historically-significant moments as the civil rights movement and the integration of professional sports, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has released a statement in support of comments made recently by Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray regarding the name of the city's NFL franchise. Last week, following the Washington Redskins' season-ending playoff loss, the mayor suggested the organization would need to have serious discussions about a name change if a move back into the city (the Redskins currently plays its games in Maryland) were to be considered.
The NCAI calls on the NFL and its Washington franchise to "leave the mockery and racism of the past where it belongs, in the past." Below is the full text of the statement:
NCAI Statement on Washington, DC Mayor Gray’s Position on
Washington NFL Football Team Name Change
Washington, DC – The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) released the following statement following the reported comments by Washington, DC’s Mayor Gray outlining criteria that conversations on a name change are central to the return of the NFL’s Washington football team to RFK Stadium and the District of Columbia:
NCAI supports Mayor Gray’s statement that the NFL’s Washington football team should only return to the nation’s Capital when the team’s name is changed. It’s time for the NFL and the Washington football team to join the 21st century and leave the mockery and racism of the past where it belongs, in the past.
Mayor Gray joins a chorus of common sense voices in the Washington, DC area and beyond, who view the archaic and outdated mascot and name of the team as a blemish on the otherwise outstanding reputation of the people of the DC region, and the players and fans of the team.
Fans of the civil rights movement who called for desegregation saw the Washington football team be the last to integrate African Americans into their sports business. However, the relics and racial stereotypes of the past still linger, keeping the Washington team’s brand stuck in the past.
This is the moment for the team, the NFL, and the community, to address the misappropriation of Native identity and honor the true historic and contemporary place of Native people and tribal nations in American society. NCAI would be pleased to offer our assistance in those discussions and decisions in the lead up to a name change. We look forward to ushering in a new era with the NFL, the team, its players, and the Washington region.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Mayor Gray suggested a name change, or a discussion of the name change, would be a criteria for the NFL football team to return to nation’s Capital.
In the article “Redskins name change should be discussed, Vincent Gray says” by the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis, the Mayor said the following:
“I think that if they get serious with the team coming back to Washington, there’s no doubt there’s going to have to be a discussion about that,” he said after a news conference, “and of course the team is going to have to work with us around that issue.”
Gray noted that many sports team — including the Washington Bullets — have discarded offensive names and/or mascots.
“I think it has become a lightning rod, and I would be love to be able to sit down with the team … and see if a change should be made,” he said. “There’s a precedent for this, and I think there needs to be a dispassionate discussion about this, and do the right thing.”
Mayor Gray joins other prominent figures in the DC area that have called for at least an open consideration of a name change. Following the recent loss by the team in the first round of the playoffs, Courland Milloy recently wrote about the issue in his Washington Post column “What’s in a name? The Redskins’ bad karma.” Jim Vance, a popular NBC affiliate evening news host made the following points last year in a commentary about considering a name change, and specifically one fan who he met last year who would not even consider the change:
“His was the kind of single-minded intransigence that mirrored George Preston Marshall, that vile, evil man who once owned the team, and who swore there would never be a Negro playing on his team. Fifty years ago, because of George Preston Marshall, the Redskins [were] the last team in the entire NFL to hire a black player. Marshall wanted Bobby Mitchell, who was the player, to play not for Old D.C., but for Old Dixie.”
“Fifty years later, do we really want to be the only team in the league with even a question about the appropriateness of our name? Can’t we at least talk about that, without somebody wanting to start a fight for goodness sake?”
About The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI):
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information visit www.ncai.org