Anti-Redskins Commercial Highlights Controversy Among Fans, Natives

An anti-Redskins commercial that aired during the NBA finals has stirred fans on both sides of the controversy to response. The two-minute commercial has over a million views on YouTube, and a lot of angry comments. Posted by the National Congress of American Indians, it highlights the falsehood of ‘redskins’ as a term of honor or recognition for native tribes.

Some comments on the video, and on Twitter since the commercial aired, continue to repeat the old claim that Native Americans don’t object to the name, despite those in the video, who clearly do, and who spent millions of dollars to air a commercial to explain this to sports fans.

Other comments, however, may suggest the sentiment is changing as people realize how many Native Americans feel about the term ‘redskins.’

The commercial never uses the word ‘redskins’ itself, but the meaning is clear to supporters, who describe it as a statement that Native Americans should be permitted to define their own identity, not to be told whether a term is offensive and labeled with it. It also does not directly discuss why the term is offensive.

NPR, however, has some information on that. (Incidentally, NPR spoke about this in response to an earlier commercial, this one for radio, also paid for by a native tribe, with the same message about the Redskins’ name.)

The term was, in fact, once used freely by certain Native tribes, but at the time when it was taken by the NFL team, it had already taken on negative connotations, and was not an accepted term. By incorporating it into a team fight song that also referred to ‘scalping’ and used the not-quite-fluent English commonly attributed to Native Americans in old movies: “Scalp ’em, swamp ’em — we will take ’em big score / Read ’em, weep ’em, touchdown! — we want heap more!”

Since the airing of the commercial, New Orleans Saints quarterback Champ Bailey has spoken out about the name, too, ESPN reports. He started his career with the Redskins, and about the name, he says,

When you hear a Native American say that ‘Redskins’ is degrading, it’s almost like the N-word for a black person. If they feel that way, then it’s not right. They are part of this country. It’s degrading to a certain race. Does it make sense to have the name?

Even if the commercial changes the public sentiment, it may not make a difference anytime soon. Last fall, Redskins team owner Dan Snyder told USA Today,

We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.

Did the anti-Redskins commercial affect how you view Native Americans, or using them as team mascots?

[photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc]