By Ken Reed
Calling an American pro football team — especially one in the nation’s capitol — a racist name like Redskins has always been despicable. Finally, that wrongdoing has been corrected.
The NFL’s Washington football team is now the Washington Commanders (Was it really necessary to take almost two years to come up with that name?)
The name change is “an amazing and a giant step in the maturation of America,” according to Suzan Shown Harjo, who is Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee.
I love that description.
Thanks to a collection of sponsors, fans and Native American protesters, Washington’s football team won’t be using Native American imagery and mascots in a way similar to how other teams use jungle animals like lions and tigers.
“Research has shown, time after time, that Native mascots lead to lowered self-esteem and self-worth, and increases rates of depression, self-harm, and violence against Native youth,” says Crystal Echo Hawk, executive director of IllumiNative, a Native American social justice organization.
Yes, name changes take time to get used to. There is a lot of history and tradition associated with the old names. But Washington and other teams that change their names, like the Cleveland Guardians of Major League Baseball, will make a lot of money by selling merchandise with the new name, logos and uniform designs.
The bottom line is, as sports broadcaster Bob Costas said many years ago, the Redskins name is “an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent.”
It took a lot of social and financial pressure for the Washington football team to do the right thing, but now that they have, it’s a sign the country is gradually growing less tolerant of racist names and symbols.
And that’s worth celebrating, even though there are many pro, college and high school teams left who have yet to do the right thing by dumping their Native American nicknames, mascots, and images.
Here’s hoping the Washington football team’s name change speeds up that process.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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