Year since Washington’s change, Indigenous sports imagery has evolved

Washington will not have any kind of Native American imagery as part of its next name, and the subject is still evolving in sports throughout the year since the legendary NFL franchise dropped arguably the most polarizing moniker that stay with the pros.

Tuesday marks the first anniversary since Washington abandoned the Redskins name and accompanying Indian Head logo after 87 years under pressure from sponsors and decades of critics who are both offensive to Native Americans. The Washington football team will be here for one more season, with a new name expected to be revealed in early 2022.

While the Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball are expected to adopt a new name at some point and the Atlanta Braves, NFL Kansas City Chiefs, NHL Chicago Blackhawks and Florida State Seminoles the NCAA are keeping theirs for now, the Washington process is the furthest along and is looking at the possibilities narrowing.

“The announcement by the Washington football team that it will not use Native American imagery is a major step towards reconciliation, justice and equality, but there is still work to be done,” said Crystal Echo Hawk, Founder and Executive Director of Native American-led IllumiNative nonprofit. “This is a step in the right direction, we call on the NFL, MLB and NHL to urge the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Braves and Chicago Blackhawks to follow the president’s lead Washington football team Jason Wright to stand on the right side of history. “

Wright, who was named Washington team president in August, excluded Warriors in a lengthy article posted on the team’s website Monday, saying comments from Native American communities showed “deep unease” about this name.

“Failure to recognize our past use of Indigenous imagery in considering the new name would ignore the individuals and communities who were hurt by the previous name,” Wright said. “We will choose an identity that unequivocally departs from any use or approximate connection to Native American imagery.”

Wright said Washington was “reduced to a short list” of names. After several months of discussing “R” options such as Redwolves, Redtails / Red Tails or Redhawks, it is possible that “Red” is completely taken out of the equation.

That would take Washington away from the old name more than the college-level changes in the 1990s: St. John’s going from Redmen to Red Storm and Miami from Ohio leaving the Redskins to become the RedHawks.

Wright said team leaders are “confident that our new brand identity will honor our heritage and lead us to our future as a franchise.”

As the final calculations on racial injustice, iconography and racism continue in the United States, Washington is far from the only franchise considering a change, while others defend the status quo.


Protests followed the Chiefs on two trips to the Super Bowl, and last fall they banned headdresses and war paint from fans at Arrowhead Stadium. They still face calls to abandon a tradition of fans engaging in a “war song” while making a choppy hand movement designed to mimic the Native American tomahawk – which is not unique to Kansas City.

A coalition of Native American groups set up billboards in the Kansas City area to protest the tomahawk chop and the names of the chiefs.

North of the border, the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton backed down last summer by dropping the Eskimos name following Washington’s decision, temporarily becoming the EE football team. On June 1, Elks was announced as Edmonton’s new name.


Cleveland and Atlanta appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Cleveland announced in December that it was abandoning the Indians and, like Washington, is reviewing a final list of possibilities. While Cleveland has not given a specific timeline on a new name, owner Paul Dolan told The Associated Press in December that he would have no association with anything Native American.

The Braves have resisted calls for a name change. The team did not give up on a strong statement in a letter to season ticket holders in 2020 that said, “We will always be the Atlanta Braves.”

Even the “tomahawk chop” has returned with fans this season after a Cardinals pitcher said in the 2019 playoffs that it was disrespectful, and the team stopped cheering on vocals. The death of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron in January led some fans to propose a stint at the Atlanta Hammers to honor “Hammerin ‘Hank.”


The Chicago Blackhawks have shown no sign of considering a name change anytime soon, with the club saying it is honoring Black Hawk, a Native American leader from the Sac & Fox Nation of Illinois. CEO Danny Wirtz said in December that the Blackhawks “continue to deepen our commitment to standing up for our namesake and our brand.”

Like the Chiefs, the Blackhawks have banned hairstyles during home games as part of their commitment to honor the Native American community, with which the team has tried to strengthen ties over the past year.


After Ohio’s Miami, St. John’s, Syracuse, North Dakota and others made changes, a handful of American colleges and universities retained Native American nicknames for sports teams and received waivers. of the NCAA because of support from local tribes. These include the Florida State Seminoles, the Utah Utes, and the Central Michigan Chippewas.

Illinois retired Chief Illiniwek’s mascot in 2007, but kept the name Fighting Illini.


The National Congress of American Indians reports that 29 schools in the United States have moved away from a Native American name or image so far in 2021. It is not known how many more changes occurred immediately after the Washington decision from July 13 to December. December 31, 2020.

The NCAI National School Mascot Tracking Database lists 1,890 schools with Native American mascots.

“Genuine respect for indigenous people and other people of color requires our country to get rid of the symbols of racism and intolerance which have for too long been entrenched in popular culture and which have marginalized and dehumanized us,” the president said. of the NCAI, Fawn Sharp. “NCAI will not rest until all offensive native-themed mascots and associated imagery are removed from popular culture. “


AP Sports Editors Tom Withers, Charles Odum, and Jay Cohen contributed to this report.


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