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


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