In 1968, during the height of the civil rights movement, John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised black-gloved fists on the medals podium at the Olympic to protest the racial discrimination against African-Americans in the U.S. And today, almost 50 years later, Carlos is raising his hand in protest again, albeit figuratively, for Native Americans by calling on the Washington Redskins to change their name.
“Richard Sherman made a very valid point,” Carlos said in a column posted by Mike Wise of The Washington Post. “For tribes or reservations to say they’re uncomfortable with you using that name, and then have players say they are just as uncomfortable, and the owner stands there, saying he’ll never change the name? How do you get away with that?
“To this day, there has been no real negotiation or real listening and understanding that I know of.”
Carlos earned the bronze medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, and stood beside Tommie Smith, the Gold medalist, who also shoved his fist in the air in a show of “black power.”
“I definitely think the name should be changed; it’s 2014,” Tre Johnson, former ‘Redskins’ Pro Bowler, told The Post in the same article. “We’re progressive and intellectual enough to realize something like that is offensive. And it’s offensive because a group of people that that moniker represents has said so.”
Eight of Johnson’s 9 NFL seasons were with the Redskins (1994-2000, 2002). The celebrated former player also made one Pro Bowl appearance, in 1999.
DeAngelo Hall is the only other current Redskins player who has spoken out forchanging the name. In an interview in January, he said, “They probably should” change it, but he surmised that it wouldn’t happen for awhile.
Ray Halbritter, President and CEO of the Oneida Indian Nation, which heads the Change the Mascot Campaign, and Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, offered a joint statement on Johnson and Carlos’s decision for taking a stand against the derogatory name.
“Tre’ Johnson, a legendary member of the Washington, D.C. NFL team, and John Carlos, a civil rights sports icon, have added their powerful voices to the growing Change the Mascot campaign against the demeaning mascotization of Native peoples. NFL officials and the Washington, D.C. team owner have a choice: they can continue following in the footsteps of the infamous segregationist George Preston Marshall who originally decided to use this dictionary defined racial slur as the D.C. team’s name. Or they can stand on the right side of history and retire this racist moniker.”
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