Black fans of the Washington Football Team are adjusting to a new future for their beloved franchise – and anticipating past disregard for the Native American people

Three years ago, the Washington Football team hosted their first Thanksgiving Day game, the franchise had played many times on vacation – and lost The 2017 game, however, wasn’t noteworthy just because the team then known as the Redskins actually did That afternoon, a small group of Native American activists gathered outside FedEx Field, the Maryland arena where Washington plays, to teach D.C. Fans over the grim irony of the event: A team, whose name is a dictionary-defined anti-indigenous arc, played on a holiday based on harmful myths about Indians Simon Moya-Smith, an Oglala Lakota tribal writer who organized the protest, remembers that some fans were surprised to see him there “There are literal black and white pictures that people have in their minds about what an Indian should look like,” he recently told me “So I come here, not on horseback, wear skinny jeans and a latte and try to talk to them about what the word “

” means

This year the team is back to Thanksgiving, but tonight’s game against longtime rival the Dallas Cowboys will look different than previous games.When Washington players step on the field, their helmets don’t show the burgundy face of an American Indian Mann’s old name, against which activists have fought since at least 1972, will be gone after he “retired” in July – a once unthinkable move following pressure from sponsors among national protests brought about by the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were raised by the police

Since changing the historic name, the team’s owner, Dan Snyder, has faced other issues, including allegations that he presided over a sexual harassment workplace that sparked an ongoing NFL investigation (Snyder has many specific Denied charges and declares he is committed to creating a better workplace culture) Last week, the Washington Post reported allegations of sexual harassment at the Original Americans Foundation, the nonprofit that Snyder founded in 2014 to appease critics of the team’s name, even supporters of the Franchise Complain About Snyder’s Apathy “For years [lawyers] have made him change that name,” said Bob Johnson, a Southeast D fanC., told me, “But as soon as FedEx and the people who sponsor it said they wanted to retire, it changed [it] money talks”

This year’s Thanksgiving game is an important reminder that team decisions are more at stake than an owner’s legacy, and they go well beyond idle sports gossip. Think of it this way: this is the first Washington-Dallas Christmas game that will not restore the violence burned into Thanksgiving history with a fight between cowboys and Indians, the symbolism is especially important given the tens of millions of TV viewers who watch Thanksgiving football for decades Washington Team’s Harmful Stereotypes About Native Americans in Such Broadcasts Although hundreds of sports teams across the country still use natives as mascots, activists hope that renaming the Washington Football Team can help send a different message

Like so much controversy in the sports world, the name change debate is essentially about identity for many indigenous proponents like Moya-Smith and Black DC.- Area fans like Johnson, The Shift is about more than new uniforms and team merch; It’s also a reflection of who they are as Americans and the challenges their respective communities in this country have faced.As the Washington Football Team has resisted racial advances for both Indians and Black Americans in the past, the name change has meaning the solidarity between marginalized groups made clear and explains why the excessive influence of professional sport can make this solidarity difficult to achieve

By 2020, the campaign to change the DC. The franchise’s old name became known nationwide every few years, but Black Lives Matter’s protests against police brutality that summer marked a turning point in a powerful racial justice movement that led to overdue reforms in various industries, and the team’s corporate sponsors decided it was D.C.My Turn The direct link between the franchise company’s name and the racial justice protests may not have been obvious to some, but Moya-Smith explained the strong relevance. “This is a term that means ‘dead Indian’,” he said and added that the word is particularly annoying given the disproportionate frequency with which the Indians die by the police, “When you are ready you can connect the dots between the team name, Thanksgiving and the police brutality in the Indian country”

Black Racial Rights Groups Have Connected the Dots The NAACP condemned the Washington team’s old name for nearly three decades and urged the media not to use it (The organization was also one of many who received the 2017 letter of the “Change the Mascot, “which links the arc to the harmful spectacle of the Thanksgiving game) And before the name change was announced, the local chapter on Black Lives Matter had spoken out against the previous label and even asked the protesters not to participate of the team’s equipment to come to the newly named “Black Lives Matter Plaza” near the White House. This point of view is not generally held by black fans in the D. Metro area (known as “DMV”) who make up a large portion of the team’s long-time supporters Still, many of the black followers I spoke to said they thought the change was a necessary growing pain; Some told me their own opinion about the old name had developed

“I don’t know if it’s maturing or getting older and I’m a minority myself [but I realized that] there is one word that is controversial [even in our community],” said Monica Williams, a Southeast DC- Born fan who found she has family members who resist any use of the N word “So I had to put myself in someone else’s shoes and say,” You know what? It’s time, “DJ Flexx, a veteran host on popular local radio station WPGC, put it bluntly:” I would hate being the Washington Negroes; I don’t want that, “he said to me.” So I understand, if a person doesn’t feel respected, we all have to respect that “

The comparison of the old team name with anti-black arcs is appropriate not only for rhetorical but also historical reasons: The Washington Football team has a legacy of adhering to racist conventions in the franchise, which was founded in 1937 by then-owner George Preston Marshall Relocated from Boston to Washington, the last NFL team to incorporate black players until 1955, Marshall, viewing radio broadcasts of his team’s games as a means of attracting revenue from southern white audiences, was the only holdout in the Seine league Reluctance to recruit black players caused some local black fans to opt for the cowboys who had already integrated.For these fans, the reasoning was simple: why should they care about a team that clearly doesn’t care about them?

After Washington finalized its ranks in 1962, the successes of the team’s black players sparked enthusiasm among black fans for the team at the 1988 Super Bowl, Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to lead an NFL team to a championship Williams Now serving as the team’s senior vice president of player development, the awe black fans show him doesn’t lightly take this Super Bowl win into place at a time when white escape and the Reagan administration’s punitive drug policies the black communities in D had devastated C. Williams told me that he met older black fans who said they prayed for him because they rarely saw themselves represented – let alone won – on a national sports stage. “When you say that, I think of my father because I know what they went through, “Williams said to me.” It was amazing for you to see a black man running on the field on Super Bowl Sunday and emerge victorious. “

In an area most written about through the lens of outsiders, the soccer team evokes local pride and a sense of community, especially black residents, who are in the know by federal lawmakers, mainstream publications, and even local magazines Rapidly Developing City Routinely Overlooked “There’s so much more to the area than Capitol Hill,” said Lewis Johnson (unrelated to Bob Johnson), the DC.- Born creator of the Facebook group “Washington Football Clubhouse” “Past racial barriers, ethnic barriers – no matter where you come from, we can all agree on one thing for a few hours. And that’s the Washington Football Team,” he said historically this regional entity, however, excludes many Native Americans, the very existence of which can make some fans uncomfortable or defensive “We’re the last people in this country who can upset an entire sports bar just by running, not by the jersey we wear” said Moya-Smith of his experience typing DC. Latch

Solidarity between the fans of the Black Washington Football Team and the indigenous critics of the former name has proven difficult in the past, also due to widespread misconceptions about Native Americans. The cornerstone is laid early in US Schools where whitewashed reports of the founding of the land often reduce Native people to cartoons “One of the first lessons American children learn in elementary school is that it’s okay to play another race,” Moya- said Smith, adding that this curriculum affects students from all backgrounds, “Where are they learning it? The Thanksgiving Game You have figures of authority who look at her and say, Oh, how cute look at that little injun, Native American notion of symbols is further normalized by the proliferation of sports teams with names like Indians and Braves

When the sports media covered the Washington name controversy, experts often played down the feelings of Indians, commentators would refer to anecdotes or polls that concluded that most Native Americans were not by the team’s name or logo In 2013, then ESPN columnist Rick Reilly wrote a lengthy defense of the team’s name based on the claim that his own father-in-law, a Blackfeet elder, didn’t think it was offensive (Bob Burns, Reilly’s father-in-law, later denied this characterization) this popular justification is flawed In a major scientific article published in March, dubbed the “largest scientific study of Native American mascots to date,” argued that many previous polls reflected the complex opinions of a diverse population The study found that Native Americans, in fact, “largely opposed the name of the Redskins team in particular, and the use of Native American mascots in general. Unsurprisingly, those who identify strongly with their heritage were from.” such distortions were most upset

Ray Halbritter, representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, told me that Washington’s former team name has long been a unique disease in the American sports landscape. He mentioned the mental harm that widespread use of the bow is causing especially young Native people can actually be a political issue. But it isn’t, ”said Halbritter about the psychological consequences of the nickname. He added that the team’s previous name was also particularly painful for the Oneida Nation due to the tribe’s history with the capital of the United States “We were the nation’s first and forgotten allies. And here you have [the] Washington [team], named after George Washington, who we fought with [during the Revolutionary War] and who dishonored us. Here is the city that bears his name, and [their soccer team] wears a racist bow “half knight and on Its community leaders, who were part of the “Change the Mascot” campaign or who privately petitioned the league, praised the franchise’s decision to rename the brand. But the arc has not completely disappeared from the sports landscape As of last month, 45 secondary school teams were still using it

This year, the Washington Football Team has a clear chance to promote real solidarity with the Native Americans in D as professional athletes in various leagues continue their own activism in C. and beyond, Current Players, including starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who has participated in protests against Black Lives Matter in D.C., speak cautiously and vaguely upbeat about the change. For Doug Williams, the beloved ex-quarterback, stepping down from the old name is an extension of the racial justice effort that he and other black players have championed for decades, even in the face of institutional barriers believes it is up to both fans and players to consider other groups, especially the indigenous peoples, in order to make the league more inclusive: “I have always said that [the Washington Football team and its fans] set an example We are the capital of the nation, “he told me,” It shouldn’t be about what we think is wrong and right, “he added,” It should be about what is right for people and how you treat them “

For Lewis Johnson, the team’s new chapter is an opportunity to build on the hard-won social progress that first cemented his love for the sport. Black players weren’t part of football’s early history, but they shaped its legacy ” You grow up thinking, okay, these are the people I can look up to. These are the athletes who have made a difference in this sport not only as soccer players in the region but also as African American athletes in general, ”he said about players like former cornerback Darrell Ray Green Johnson, who changed the name of his Facebook group after the news of the team’s postponement from “Redskins Rally”, said that the joyful moments in the team’s history will not suddenly be erased, as some name change opponents claim, “We can have our history,” he said, “but we must go forward”

As disapproving as Snyder may have been about the name change, its symbolism reverberates across the fan base.Some, like Monica Williams (unrelated to Doug Williams), hope fans who have felt alienated by the change will come through young Replacing football enthusiasts ready to give their local team a chance “All the fans who were angry about racial unity within the organization said we ruined football for them – they will leave”And there will be a whole lot more fans,” she told me. Until last year, only 8 percent of district residents under 40 named their hometown their favorite NFL team. Williams mentioned their “socially conscious” 18-year-old daughter who had concerns regarding the Redskins branded gear her mother bought her as an example of a young person the team might be more attractive to now

While the team is expected to keep its tentative name for the 2021 season, the search for a more permanent identity has sparked opportunities for creative input from fans by the end of September, a registration form on the team’s new website had nearly 9000 responses collected from people suggesting new names In a recent fan blog post, newly hired President Jason Wright, the first black president of an NFL team, asked to be patient with the renaming process: “Bruh / sis, let me do something easy, we need some time to get this right! “he wrote Wright’s plea, whether jokingly or otherwise, reflects the weight of the decision to come: After decades of utter disregard for Native Americans, the team must ensure that the next steps are thoughtful Fortunately, there is no shortage of rating options. Whichever wins, at least part of the franchise’s identity remains the same. “Let’s get our Burgundy and Gold,” said DJ Flexx of the team’s colors. “We’re fine well, we’ll find out that name and everything else ”

Washington Redskins, Redskins

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