Tag Archives: Washington Redskins

Interview with Reverend John Norwood

As part of my ongoing research into Native American culture and the debate over the Washington Redskins name change, I felt it was important to reach out to members of the Native American community in order to hear their perspectives. As I’ve mentioned previously on the blog, I’m extremely aware that from my standpoint as a white American, I’m incapable to fully grasping the struggles and perspectives of another race. Speaking to members of that community to hear their voices is the best way to learn about their perspectives.

To this end, I reached out to the Nanticoke Indian Tribe in the hopes of finding someone I could speak to about these issues. My request for contact was forwarded to the Chief and Council of the tribe, and I was then contacted by Reverend John Norwood, who said he was asked to respond to my request and serve as the spokesperson on behalf of the tribe. He was gracious enough to speak with me in a telephone interview on Tuesday, March 26th.

After greeting Reverend Norwood and telling him about my research into the name change, I asked him for his thoughts on the debate.

“The position I take on the mascot,” he said, “is that people don’t understand how devastating it can be, even when you are trying to honor the tribe.”

He explained that matters like the use of Native American images in mascots have to be handled sensitively, and that they should be handled on the local level. When Native American images are used at the national level, such as with major sports teams, he said that can make it difficult to teach people about the needed sensitivity. In some cases, the use of Native American imagery is handled properly and respectfully.

“Our southernmost community has a relationship with their school district,” he said, explaining how that tribe has granted permission for their local school district to make use of their tribal images. “That is between that tribe and that school district. But the school does not own the images, and the school is teaching about sensitivity.” The fact that the individual school is addressing the issue with respect and sensitivity, he explained, is an important variable.

“Most of the time it’s not the case,” he added, explaining that many other uses of Native American images aren’t handled properly. “What you have are mascots that do harm to the history and psychological well-being of tribes.”

When I asked him more about how some institutions improperly use the images, he said, “Native Americans don’t have the opportunity to control how the mascot is displayed. That is actually the stealing of heritage. The way it was taken is the same way our lands were taken. Most of the institutions don’t have any link to tribal heritage, and the images used are stereotypical about 90% of the time.”

He then explained some of the issues about the specific ways in which the mascots are displayed. He referenced some of the violent conflicts from the past where many Native Americans were killed. “Indians were being decapitated,” he said. “Whole villages would be decapitated. When people see a floating Indian head, that’s what they remember. If it brings up painful memories and painful history, then that’s offensive.”

This point is one that I haven’t seen raised in the other articles I’ve read regarding the mascot debate. Most of the articles I’ve read tend to speak about how the name “Redskins” is racist and offensive, but the image of the mascot itself is often ignored. Yet it turns out that the image itself can be associated with a violent and traumatizing past.

Reverend Norwood also spoke of the ways in which Native images are often portrayed as caricatures and stereotypes. He told me about how his son played in an intramural basketball league, and when his team played against a school with an Indian mascot, the images painted on the walls were of “a racist looking caricature of an Indian.”

“If an African American had walked in and seen a caricature of an African,” he said, “or if it were a Jewish or Asian image, something would be done about it. When it’s Indian people and we say we’re offended, they say, ‘We’re just honoring you.’ We are dismissed.”

His words reminded me of a number of articles I’ve read in the last few weeks that referenced that same point. People who defend the use of Native American mascots often argue that they do so to “honor” the Native American people. But Reverend Norwood explained that the use of these images in improper, misrepresentative ways does not honor them.

“Only certain people were allowed to do certain things and earned that honor,” he said. “When we say we are offended and these people who say they are honoring us, they dismiss us.

“It is possible to gain the support of a local tribe to bless the use of an image. To truly honor by engaging and understanding that is a privilege. Not a right. Typically, there is an arrogance. The misappropriation of badges of honor.”

What Reverend Norwood was referring to is called “cultural appropriation.” It is defined as “the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group,” but it can also be referred to as “the act of stealing and corrupting.” Along with the debates and protests over the use of Native American images in sports mascots, there are protests over individuals using traditional Native American clothing and adornments as fashion statements. One example that has gained recent notoriety is the band Pink Pony, which sparked protests when they posted photos of one of their band members wearing a Native headdress “that is traditionally reserved for Native Tribal Chiefs and not for members of unsigned Electronica bands.” This is another example of what Reverend Norwood referred to when he said, “Only certain people were allowed to do certain things and earned that honor.”

“It wouldn’t be tolerated with any other race,” he said. “The history of American Indians is unique in this country because we’re the only indigenous people.”

He then explained how his people are often excluded even in the language used by many others in the country. As an example, he spoke about how many politicians will use the phrase, “We are a country of immigrants,” a phrase that was even used by President Obama on Citizenship Day 2013. Yet as Reverend Norwood explained, such phrasing excludes Native Americans who have lived here since long before our current country was founded.

“My people were here,” he said. But he explained that his people have a sense of exclusion, and that they are viewed as a conquered or vanquished people who are often ignored by politicians and the government. “They don’t want to deal with the plight of the tribes today. It’s a huge insult.”

I then asked him about the Washington Redskins as a specific case. “The term is a term we don’t call ourselves,” he said, echoing the words of the “Proud to Be” video released by the National Congress of American Indians. “It’s an insult. The arrogance of the owners is a travesty. If it was any other race, they would understand. We are dictated to, more so than any other individual group. The mascot issue is symbolic of the continuing struggle of American Indians.”

He then continued, “An institution will get an individual group to say it’s okay. That doesn’t matter.” Instead, he explained, a team would need the support of the tribal nations. An example of what Reverend Norwood was referring to can be seen in the recent news about Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his efforts to reach out to Native American communities. As reported by The Nation, Dan Snyder recently released a letter in which he described how he spoke “face-to-face with Native American leaders and community members,” but as The Nation’s article points out, he didn’t speak with the oldest Native American civil rights organization, the National Congress of American Indians. In essence, what this means is that while Mr. Snyder may have gained the support of some individual communities, that support cannot be said to represent the beliefs and views of the tribal nations as a whole.

When I asked Reverend Norwood to explain when a mascot would or wouldn’t be okay or under what circumstances permission would be granted, he said, “When it crosses the line into disrespect, then it’s a problem. It’s a direct insult to your very identity. And when you say that, you’re cast as being unreasonable.

“Opinions vary. Some extreme people will say, ‘It’s all wrong.’ Some say ‘Oh, it’s not a problem.’ Something in the middle is where the real problem is.”

We then discussed the way certain individual schools and institutions could gain permission. “Let’s say you have an area with a tribe that is still active in the area,” he said. “The tribe continues to educate and advise so that the school doesn’t think that they own it.” In this way, he said, the use of a Native American mascot can be monitored by the tribe to make sure they don’t devolve into an insulting image. Without this continued relationship with a tribe, he said, “Mascots will deteriorate into a caricature and an insult.”

As an example, he told me that his local township uses an Indian symbol. “But the township has a formal relationship with the tribe,” he said. “Their engagement and understanding is valuable. That was blessed. That’s okay. This is how we can respect and honor the culture. But I have never personally spoken to a tribal Indian who thought it was okay to have an offensive mascot.” It is important, he explained, for there to be continued engagement between the institution and the tribe, and that the tribe should retain the rights to withdraw their permission in the future, should they feel the need to do so.

“There must be a continuing relationship of respect,” he said. “And if you’re not going to do that, stay away from it.”

But this type of continuing relationship, he explained, can only occur on a case-by-case basis with individual tribes and their local schools and institutions. On the national level, he said, “There’s no tribe to get consent from. They need to change. If you’re using those images, you need to engage them. If you do anything less, you’re doing violence to them.

“I’ve had to wipe the tears off the cheeks of my own children and the tribal children dealing with that. When racism happens, we are all victimized by that racism. All are affected. Our mindset is affected. It has a negative influence on our society and our cultures. We are all victims. We are all victimized by it, in some way, shape, or form.

“Even the head of the Redskins is bound by that,” he said in conclusion. “It kills a bit of his soul. It affects all of us.”

Reverend Norwood also forwarded me a publication by the National Congress of American Indians, titled, “Ending the Legacy Of Racism in Sports & the Era of Harmful “Indian” Sports Mascots.” It is a compelling document that I strongly recommend reading.

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Sports Culture Interview, Results, and Reflection

As I recently mentioned, on Monday, March 24th I conducted an interview on the topic of sports culture. I wanted to get the perspective of an avid sports fan in order to learn what his views are on the significance of sports in modern life, and on the debate over the name of the Washington Redskins. This is just one of multiple interviews I’m conducting on this subject, and during the course of the next couple of weeks I’ll be trying to learn from the perspectives of multiple individuals from different backgrounds.

The individual I interviewed was a man named George, who works as a bartender at a local Chili’s. I was introduced to him through a friend, who told me that George was extremely knowledgeable on the topic of sports. I soon found out that this was an understatement, and George ended up sharing a lot of fascinating information with me.

I arrived at the Chili’s early, and I was shown to the bar. While I was waiting for George to arrive, I took some time to look around at the environment. The bar area was quiet, since it was a Monday afternoon and many people were likely still at their day jobs. Two TVs hung over the bar at either end of the room, both playing sports channels. One was playing “Intentional Talk,” a sports talk show on the MLB Network. The sound was muted so the on-screen discussion couldn’t be heard, but the show moved back and forth between the discussion and clips of recent baseball games, along with statistics displayed on screen updating the audience about various games. At the bottom of the screen, a scorebar showed live updates of the scores of various spring training games taking place that day.

The second television was playing ESPN’s “NFL Insiders.” On that muted screen, three men and a woman discussed football stats, while the screen alternated between the discussion and lists of various player statistics.

George soon arrived, full of pep and energy. Since I was interviewing him during his work shift, he spent the first few minutes checking the stock levels of the bar’s supplies and getting his cash register setup. Yet even before I started asking him questions, he already started talking about sports with the other bartender.

“I can’t even hate the cowboys anymore,” he said when the other bartender brought up football. “They’re just not good.”

“Hate on principle,” the other bartender said. The directness of her comment made me smirk; even though I’m not a sports fan, I’ve been conditioned to hate the Dallas Cowboys from a young age, as are most others who live in the Philadelphia area. Rivalries, it seemed, could become a part of the entire region.

“I’m getting too old to hate,” George said.

Once we settled into a serious discussion of sports culture, one of the first things George brought up was this idea of fan identity. He explained to me that Philadelphia fans are well-known, even notorious, for their passion about their teams. “Philly fans are the best fans,” he said. “A sports franchise is supposed to take on the identity of the city.”

That identity is strongest in Philly, he explained, partially because Philadelphia is one of only three cities where all their teams for the major sports (football, baseball, hockey, and basketball) are within the city limits. This immediately reminded me of my recent trip to a Flyers hockey game, where I noticed that the stadiums for all of Philly’s teams are built within sight of each other in a closely-packed sports district. It turns out that only Philadelphia, Chicago, and Denver had such a self-contained set of sports franchises all within their city limits, and only a total of twelve cities even have stadiums for all four major sports within their greater metropolitan area.

George then started explaining the importance of this identity connection between the fans and the city. “The number one thing is not about winning,” he said. “It’s about how you reflect the fan base. Even if you have bad moves for winning, you bring fans into the ballpark.” He then proceeded to explain how some fans might complain about their team making a certain trade or a certain draft pick that they disapproved of, because the decisions don’t always seem like the types that will lead to more wins and more championships. But, he said, the teams made moves that “developed their identity with their fan base.”

I asked him to describe the “Philadelphia identity,” and he began making comparisons to other widely-known Philadelphia cultural icons. “We have Rocky,” he said, referring to the Sylvester Stallone film, which was set in Philadelphia. “People think Rocky. They think the Liberty Bell. They think the art museum. They think the Flyers.” As George explained this, I thought back to my experiences at the Flyers game. I told him about how they had played images of the Liberty Bell on the JumboTron before the game started, along with other images of American icons. Playing those images in association with the sporting even is part of how this “Philadelphia identity” is forged and reinforced.

When I asked him for more details about the identity of the Flyers in particular, he pointed out that their nickname, the “Broad Street Bullies,” says it all. “Flyers are not finesse,” he said. “Flyers have lots of hits, lots of checking.” Other teams, he explained, might have players who make careful, finesseful shots. The Flyers, on the other hand, are more likely to rush the goalie and score in a more forceful manner.

I then asked George how this “Philadelphia identity” and the “Flyers identity” connected with the fans themselves. “Philadelphia fans have sports, but that’s it,” he explained. “That’s our focal point in Philadelphia. It’s sports.” We discussed how, in Philadelphia, there isn’t much else in the local area, like New York’s nightlife or Florida’s beaches and resorts. As an example, he spoke about the Florida Marlins, known now as the Miami Marlins. He said that they are a good team (and have won two World Series championships), but they don’t draw in the fans. In fact, I found that Miami’s attendance was ranked 28 out of 30 in 2013 (with Philadelphia coming in at #8), 18 out of 30 in 2012 (with Philadelphia at #1), 29 out of 30 in 2011 (with Philadelphia at #1), and 28 out of 20 in 2010 (with Philadelphia at #2). The attendance boost in 2012 is mostly attributed to the fact that the team built a brand new stadium that opened that year.

The low attendance doesn’t seem to be entirely due to poor performance, since while the Marlins ranked #29 in performance in 2013, they were #25 in 2012, and #22 in 2011, and #17 in 2010. So why would the team’s attendance be so consistently low (ranking 28th, 28th, and 29th  for the three years excluding when the new stadium was built), when their performance only matched that low ranking in one of those years? George told me that it was because Florida has a culture that is more focused on resorts, families on vacations, and senior citizens who have retired in the area. They simply don’t have the same focus on sports that the Philadelphia area has.

After having learned about Philadelphia’s sports culture and the way culture can vary from one city to another, I asked George what he thought about the Washington Redskins name change debate. He explained, “Fans don’t see the Redskins name as a problem. A very small group of people are offended by the name. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know if it was meant to be an insult when they came up with the names. Look at what was acceptable language in different eras.”

When we started discussing language and the evolution it’s taken over the years, George pointed out the differences between sports team names during the late 1800s and early 1900s compared to those today. He pointed out that newly formed sports teams, like those found in major league soccer, tend to use more “modern” names, like the Houston Dynamo, the Philadelphia Union, and the LA Galaxy. Since major league soccer wasn’t founded until 1993 (compared to major league baseball which was founded in 1869 and the NFL which was founded in 1920), the naming traditions some from a very different cultural viewpoint. Many forms of language that were accepted in the years when other sports leagues were founded are no longer accepted today. Teams like the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, therefore, gained their names during an era of language that is no longer appropriate today.

After giving this topic some thought, George said, “Does it make it right, necessarily? No, I don’t think it makes it right. Is it a form of genocide? We as humans take things from the past, and there’s this sense that we’re making fun of something that’s extinct.”

“It’s tough, though,” he added, “because there’s so many arguments. It’s not right, though. Everybody has a tolerance for pain. If you find words painful, you can’t help that sometimes. Is that a form of cultural extinction? Is that what we’re doing to people?”

Since we had begun discussing baseball more than any other sport, I decided to ask George how he felt about the efforts to change the offensive names and mascots like the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo. A recent Twitter movement has sprung up under the hashtag “#DeChief,” encouraging people to remove the Indians’ logo from their hats, jerseys, and other sports gear. Some fans are now starting to attend games wearing their “dechiefed” gear, while others protest that anyone who doesn’t like the mascot should root for another team.

“They’re trying to go with the ‘C’ more than the chief logo,” George said. “There’s this identity with that. It’s tough. It’s definitely a tough gray area. You feel differently about it every day. There’s tradition, and there’s offending people.”

One of the TVs above the bar had started playing a baseball game, the Cleveland Indians vs the Cincinnati Reds. We discussed the game for a time. Then, just before I left, George said, “Here’s my best advice: Don’t get involved in sports. Too many wasted emotions. It’s fun, though. You have to compete with somebody. Some people take solace in being able to compete with themselves. ‘Can I do this, can I do that.’ But baseball is head to head. There’s somebody else that is going to lose.”

After the interview was over, I had some time to reflect on it and to consider what I learned. I definitely felt that George and I had a good discussion, and he revealed a lot about the nature of sports and identity. I was also pleasantly surprised about how smooth the discussion went, even when we touched on sensitive topics. This was good, since as I discussed in my pre-interview post, I was hoping for an open flow of communication that would help both George and myself to discuss and learn as we went along. George’s introspective questions about the morality of the situation and about cultural extinction led me to believe he was considering ideas he hadn’t considered before, and I certainly know that I was.

Of course, one limitation of this interview was that George is a Philadelphia fan, rather than a fan of the Washington Redskins or the Cleveland Indians. If possible, I may try to seek out a fan of one of those teams in order to learn what they have to say about these debates. Though George did tell me that if the name and mascot of one of his Philly teams were to be changed, he would probably find that upsetting. When I consider everything George said about a sports team being a part of a city’s identity, and how the team works to connect with the culture of the people who live in their area, it makes sense that people would take it personally. The challenge, then, is to address the need for change while still keeping in mind the emotional impact it will have on fans who see their sports team as a part of their identity. From what I’ve seen in many of the online debates I’ve witnessed, many sports fans react harshly, which makes it difficult to have a discussion about the need for change. In fact, a study that I read (Fandom and Psychological Enhancement: Effects of Sport Team Identification and Imagined Interaction on Self-Esteem and Management of Social Behaviors, Keaton, et al, 2014) stated that “When identity or ego becomes threatened (such as after a loss) much research finds that aggressive behaviors occur because highly favorable views of the self are disputed by others” (p. 4). If fans strongly identify with their sports team, and that sports team’s identity is disputed by others, it makes sense that fans would end up taking it personally.

I plan to keep these ideas in mind in my future interviews. I have several others planned this week, and I’m hoping that they will also go smoothly. My conversation with George went well largely due to the rapport we built up early on and how comfortable we became with the discussion. I think it also helped that I was able to share my own experiences with him, such as when I discussed my recent trip to the Flyers game. It helped us to establish a connection and it helped fuel the conversation that followed. With any luck I’ll be able to establish similar connections with the others I interview.

Ethnographic Hockey, Part 1: An Orange and Black Philadelphia

As part of my ongoing research into Native American culture, sports culture, and racism, I decided that I needed to go to a sporting event. My purpose in going was to make sure that I gain some kind of understanding about what sports mean to people and the role sports play in people’s lives. With the ongoing debate over the names of teams like the Washington Redskins (which some people argue mock Native American culture and others argue honors them), I feel that it’s important for me to get to know sports culture in order to understand the perspective of the people who say that their teams are part of a longstanding tradition.

On Tuesday, March 18th, I attended the Flyers vs Blackhawks game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. I tried to go in with an open mind. I’d never been to a hockey game before, and my previous experience with live sporting events had been sharply limited. My dad took me to two baseball games (Phillies vs Pirates and Phillies vs Expos (the Montreal Expos, I have since learned, are now renamed the Washington Nationals)) when I was a kid, and I don’t remember much of anything about them. One of my uncles took me to an Eagles game, and I only remember that it was really cold. Then, as an adult, I once took a girl to a New York Giants football game because she was a football fan and I wanted to impress her (it didn’t work). Attending a hockey game on this occasion was helpful because it is a sport I’m completely unfamiliar with (thus allowing me to enter with as few preconceptions as possible), though the fact that both football and baseball were out of season had a lot to do with the decision.

I bought my ticket online, after a fair bit of confusion navigating the ticket purchasing website. I eventually found that those attending the game can select whichever seat they like from an interactive stadium map that shows where each seat is located, how many seats are already empty or filled, and the seat’s position relative to the rink. I chose a seat in the mezzanine level (because those were the cheapest tickets), at a position I thought would give me an adequate view of the game: Section 222, Row 13, Seat 18.

I printed the ticket from my computer at home, though there is also an option to pick your tickets up at the box office.
I printed the ticket from my computer at home, though there is also an option to pick your tickets up at the box office.

I left early, wearing my NaNoWriMo hoodie and carrying my fieldnotes book in my pocket. I brought two pens, just in case. Which is a good thing, since one of them ran out of ink before the game even started. I ended up taking quite a lot of notes during the following five hours.

Excuse my poor handwriting.
Excuse my poor handwriting.
I filled up nearly the whole 180 page notebook.
I filled up nearly the whole 180 page notebook.

My goal during note-taking was to capture as much as I could about the people, their behavior, the way they talked, and the reactions they had during the game. However, I also spent a lot of time looking at the environment, since a stadium is a very unique setting not quite like any other.

I arrived at the Wells Fargo Center at 6:00 pm. I paid $16 for parking (which, I should note, is actually cheaper than the $21 parking price at the Penn Museum, which is only a short distance from the stadium). I noticed an advertisement for 1-800-Lundy-Law on the front of the parking lot ticket booth. When I first entered the parking lot, my initial reaction was confusion. There were parking spaces all around, but most of the lots were blocked off by barriers and orange cones, while lot attendants in neon orange vests waved the cars forward and directed us elsewhere. Uncertain where I was being led, I followed the line of cars in front of me until we circled nearly the whole building. Eventually, I was waved into a parking lot and found a spot. While the complexity of parking was at first confusing, it later became clear that it was a necessity. During the game it was announced that 19,932 people were in attendance, and with that many people, the parking situation could easily have descended into chaos without the aid of stadium employees telling us all where to go. The stadium has a maximum capacity of 21,660, which means it doesn’t get much more packed than it was that night (in fact, the announcement made on the JumboTron called it a “sell out”).

Upon my arrival in the parking lot, I already saw dozens of people dressed in orange and black clothes, hats, and jerseys. While not a hockey fan, I’m familiar enough with the Philadelphia Flyers to know that orange, black, and white are their team colors. I initially spotted only a few people wearing Blackhawks jerseys, which wasn’t surprising, since the game was taking place in Philly.

I took a few minutes while in the parking lot to just observe the area. The first thing I noticed was that there were several stadiums clumped together all in this same area. From the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center (which, according to banners hanging on the side of the building, hosts games for the Flyers, the Wings lacrosse team, and the 76ers basketball team), I could see the nearby Lincoln Financial Field (home of the Eagles football team), and the Citizens Bank Park (home of the Phillies baseball team). I have always found it curious that all of the stadiums in Philadelphia are named after banks. It also leads to frequent name changes when banks undergo mergers. Just as customers of those banks find the name of their local branch changed, the Wells Fargo Center has changed names from the CoreStates Center to the First Union Center to the Wachovia Center, before settling on its current name. Yet the name is much more than a simple identifier: the original CoreStates bank paid $40 million in 1996 to get naming rights of the stadium for the next 21 years.

Before leaving my car, I took note of where I had parked. A sign on the nearby lamppost said this was section “D3,” and below that was a Toyota logo. I mused about the significance of parking in the Toyota parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center, remembering how I’d paid for parking at the “1-800-Lundy-Law” ticket booth. I then headed up to the stadium.

More people wearing orange and black continued to pass by me. An announcer spoke over the speakers overhead, telling me that “1-800-Lundy-Law welcomes you to the Wells Fargo Center.” The same announcer warned me not to buy tickets from scalpers and said that they would not be accepted at the ticket booth. It occurred to me later that the term “scalpers” is a potentially offensive one. My earlier research into sports and racism brought up a news article about a Sonic Drive-in sign referring to scalping, which read “‘KC CHIEFS’ WILL SCALP THE REDSKINS FEED THEM WHISKEY SEND – 2 – RESERVATION.” The sign was later taken down after multiple complaints were issued, and Sonic issued a formal apology. However, there is a certain disparity between using the term “scalping” to refer to sports teams like the Chiefs and the Redskins versus using it to refer to ticket resale.

I continued onwards, and reached the main entrance to the stadium. In front of the entrance, five tall flagpoles stood in a row, the flags on top of each flapping lightly in the breeze. I looked up and examined each of the flags. One showed the logo for the Philadelphia Wings, the next the logo for Comcast Sportsnet, the next the 76ers, then the Flyers, and finally the American flag.

I stopped and considered the meaning of this for a moment. The flags representing the sports teams were hung alongside the American flag, at the same height, depicted with the same significance. It seemed to be symbolic of the position sports played in the lives of Americans. Sports are, notably, considered a national phenomenon in many ways. Baseball is called the “National Pastime.” ESPN has a program called “SportsNation.” And as noted earlier, the Canadian-based team the Montreal Expos was later moved to Washington D.C. and renamed the Washington Nationals. The Nationals’ mascot is Screech, a bald eagle, and many of the team’s logos are red, white, and blue, with stars.

Image Credit: SportsLogos.net
Image Credit: SportsLogos.net

The significance of a team’s mascot and logo seems particularly important. As I noted in an earlier post, the Blackhawks team name and mascot are based off the original team owner’s World War I infantry division, something which holds a lot of historical and cultural importance. And while the Philadelphia Flyers have no actual mascot, their team logo is a stylized “P” representative of their home city of Philadelphia. The name “Flyers” was chosen because “it captured the speed of the game and went well phonetically with Philadelphia.” The design of the logo also incorporates a wing to represent speed, a circle at the center of the “P” that represents a hockey puck, and a sweeping stick shape on the back end of the “P” that looks like a hockey stick. The combination of these factors blends the concepts of “speed,” “hockey,” and “Philadelphia” into a single image. It’s easy to see how this would help fans from the Philadelphia area identify and associate with their team, feeling a connection between their own status as Philadelphians and their hockey team.

Image Credit: GoodLogo.com
Image Credit: GoodLogo.com

The Flyers aren’t the only Philly team to have a mascot or logo that forges such a connection. The Philadelphia Eagles use the bald eagle, which is also the symbol found on the Great Seal of the United States.

Image Credit: Wikipedia
Image Credit: Wikipedia

This seems particularly significant when considering that Philadelphia was the original capital of the United States, from 1790-1800. Philadelphia is also one of the oldest cities in America, founded by William Penn in 1682. It’s a city that has played an important role in our colonial history.

Image Credit: hoopsmanifesto.com
Image Credit: hoopsmanifesto.com

This connection between the Philadelphia sports teams and Philadelphia history is also seen in the logo of the 76ers. The Sixers are named after the year 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed. Their logo, like the Washington Nationals, includes red, white, and blue colors, along with a circle of thirteen stars in the same design as the first American flag.

I turned away from the line of flags and into the stadium, pondering the cultural significance of these connections. I had already encountered a great deal of symbolism and history, and the game hadn’t even started yet.

This story will continue in Ethnographic Hockey, Part 2: Autographed Jerseys and Buy One Get One Hats.

Review of Recent News About the Redskins Name Change

As I’ve mentioned in some recent posts, I’m currently engaged in a research project where I’m studying Native American culture, racism, and sports, with particular focus on the debate over the Washington Redskins name change. I’ve written a few posts exploring this topic, most recently looking into the culture of sports.

Today I plan to review some of the most recent news articles I’ve found on the subject, in an attempt to summarize the various views. I’ve searched a variety of news sources and compiled a list of articles arguing various sides of the debate. I’ll be posting some general summaries here, taking a neutral stance since the purpose of this post is to review what people are saying, rather than to express my own opinion. This review will then help as background for my future posts, similar to an academic literature review.

In favor of changing the name:

Most of the articles I’ve found in favor of changing the name have been very direct in their views. These articles mostly show a firm stance with no room for compromise. In an article on Huffington Post, Dan Treadway cites a statistic that 79% of Americans are against changing the name and support the Redskins staying as they are. He refers to those 79% as “stubbornly ignorant.” He argues that the name Redskins is unarguably racist:

“I mean, literally — if you look up the word Redskin in the dictionary, it’s defined simply as, “Used as a disparaging term for a Native American.” This isn’t even really debatable, the name is offensive not because of any sort of allusion or interpretation — it’s defined as a racial slur.”

He continues by saying that any attempt to keep the name is “completely absurd.”

Treadway then cites cases of other sports teams that have changed their names, such as the Arkansas State team changing “from the Indians to the Red Wolves.”

Similar views are expressed by Amanda Blackhorse, Native American issues advocate, who wrote an article where she refers to the team as the R*dsk*ns in order to avoid citing the racial slur directly. She refers to the term as “disparaging, racist, and hateful.” Both Blackhorse and Treadway refer to the fact that the name was first adopted in the 1930s, a time when racism was even more prolific than it is today. Both writers also state that defenders of the team name argue that it is a longstanding tradition. Blackhorse counters that argument by saying, “Just because something has gone on for a long time does not mean that the activity is a legitimate tradition. Not all traditions have carried on and many are harmful and repressive.”

Blackhorse also discusses her views as a member of the Navajo Nation. She cites an example of a time she attended a game in Kansas City, where Washington played the Kansas City Chiefs, and she “saw fans ‘playing Indian,’ wearing outrageous and pathetic costumes that stereotyped traditional Native American regalia.” She explained how the various posters and decorations around the stadium showed stereotypes of Native American culture. She referred to these as an “ugly display of hostility and disdain toward [her] people” that made her feel unsafe.

However, Blackhorse also spoke about the various types of support for the name change, citing mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray, among the political figures who has spoken out about the name change. She also mentioned that “leading columnists for The Washington Post, including Courtland Milloy, Mike Wise, Sally Jenkins and Robert McCartney, have written powerful articles calling for the team to change its name.” In addition to such articles, multiple major news publications have implemented policies refusing to use the Redskins’ name in their articles (instead referring to the team only as “Washington”). I found multiple articles stating that the Washington team name is no longer being printed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Slate, and Merrill College’s Capital News, or used by individual columnists such as Tim Graham, sports writer for the Buffalo News, and Philadelphia Daily News sports columnist John Smallwood.

Further political support for the name change was cited by Bloomberg Businessweek. The article states that Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington and Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma together sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. In the letter, Cantwell and Goodell stated that, “The National Football League can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur.”

Several articles also refer to other sports teams who have faced similar issues and made changes to their teams. An article on CNN.com states that “Two MLB clubs, the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians, changed their logos to become less offensive to Native Americans.” They also cited college sports teams who have faced controversies, saying that “15 teams have changed their mascot to be more sensitive to Native Americans.” In addition to the teams that have changed their names or mascots, the CNN article says that there are some teams who haven’t had to change. Specifically,  “The Florida State Seminoles, Central Michigan Chippewas, Utah Utes and Mississippi College Choctaws have all been granted waivers to keep their nicknames after the respective tribes gave their support to the schools.”

Against the name change:

In searching for articles speaking against the name change, the most prominent figure I found was Dan Snyder, the Washington team owner. As reported by CNN.com, Snyder wrote a letter defending the team name:

“Our franchise has a great history, tradition and legacy representing our proud alumni and literally tens of millions of loyal fans worldwide. We are proud of our team and the passion of our loyal fans. Our fans sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ in celebration at every Redskins game. They speak proudly of ‘Redskins Nation’ in honor of a sports team they love.”

In addition to Snyder’s comments in support of his team name, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken on the issue. As reported by Sports Illustrated, Goodell said that the team name “honors Native Americans” and that 9 out of 10 fans support the team keeping their name. He also said that “the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”

Some articles also take the stance that the name change is not a key topic. One article quoted a team statement saying, “With all the important issues Congress has to deal with such as a war in Afghanistan to deficits to health care, don’t they have more important issues to worry about than a football team’s name?” Another article by Jason S. Parini of the Bleacher Report said that the team name should not be changed. Parini cited the Oklahoma Redskin Theatre as as example of another long-standing business bearing the same name, and also said that the name “‘Oklahoma’ comes from the Choctaw for ‘red people.'” He also spoke of an investigation by Senator Cantwell into the Redskins’ tax-exempt status, and called the investigation “just another money-making scheme by the U.S. government.”

Parini also argued against the point that the Redskins name is a racial slur, stating that “the Redskins also have presented a 2004 survey that found that over 90 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the name.” He expressed an opinion that the majority should not be outweighed by the demands of a few, saying “the hurt feelings of a small amount of individuals should not take priority over a large majority who see it otherwise.”

Other articles on public opinion cited statistics by a Washington Post poll, which found that 61% of Washington D.C. residents support the Redskins’ name, and 66% further say that the team should keep its name.

In addition, an article by Rick Reilly on EPSN.com argued that it is “White America” that is offended by the name, and he cited a number of examples of Native Americans who are not offended. Reilly quoted Bob Burns, his father-in-law and a bundle holder in the Blackfeet tribe, who said, “The name just doesn’t bother me much. It’s an issue that shouldn’t be an issue, not with all the problems we’ve got in this country.”

He also quoted Brett Hayes, a Choctaw man who is an English Teacher at Kingston High School in Oklahoma. Kingston is a school that is 57.7 percent Native American, and their team is also called the Redskins. Hayes was quoted as saying, “It’s a name that honors the people. The word ‘Oklahoma’ itself is Choctaw for ‘red people.’ The students here don’t want it changed. To them, it seems like it’s just people who have no connection with the Native American culture, people out there trying to draw attention to themselves.” Reilly also cited several other predominantly Native American high schools that have teams named the Redskins, including Wellpinit High School in Washington (91.2 percent Native American) and Red Mesa High School in Arizona (99.3 percent Native American).

Conclusion

In reviewing all of these articles (including several others I didn’t cite here simply because they repeated the same points), it seems clear that there is a lot of divide on this issue. That divide doesn’t seem to be limited purely to people of one race or another. Even among Native Americans themselves, I found articles citing individuals both for and against the name change. The statistics vary a bit from one article to another (with one poll stating 61% of respondents supported the Redskins’ name, another saying 79% supported the name, and another saying 90% supported the name). People on both sides of the debate argue from the perspective of people defending their culture, honor, and traditions. They simply take drastically different views on how those traditions affect them.

Sports, Language, and Culture

As part of my ongoing research into the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape and the specific issue of racism with regards to the name of the Washington Redskins, I’ve decided to read up in more detail about sport culture and how it develops. I touched briefly on the topic of sports culture in a previous post, but that was only a brief summary. Today, I’m going to dig a bit deeper and try to understand some of the psychology at work in the perspectives of sports fans, their culture and traditions, and their beliefs with regards to the importance of sports.

I’m addressing this issue from the perspectives of two communication theories. One is Standpoint Theory, which explains that an individual’s perspectives and views are based on and shaped by their social location. Based on Standpoint Theory, one could argue that a rich politician in Washington doesn’t really understand poverty because they haven’t lived it, and they don’t know the perspective of the people who struggle with poverty everyday. I understand that my standpoint is going to affect how I view things, even sports. In particular, my standpoint is that I’m an outsider; I don’t watch sports, I don’t know the rules (beyond “get the ball into the goal”), and I have never been involved in the culture or community that forms around sports. Therefore I think it’s important that I note my “outsider” status since people reading my thoughts and opinions might take my viewpoint in a different way than they would the opinion of someone involved in sports.

Another perspective that is key in my approach is that of Symbolic Interactionism. The general concept behind this theory is that “people act toward things based on the meaning those things have for them; and these meanings are derived from social interaction and modified through interpretation.” I think this theory offers a good interpretation of sports culture, because many people have different reactions towards sports based on what sports mean to them. It’s especially important to consider how “meanings are derived from social interaction,” since my initial research into this area has shown me that the social aspects of watching sports have a lot to do with how people view sports in their lives.

In their article “Sport, Language, and Culture: Issues and Intersections” (Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 2010), authors Lindsey Mean and Kelby Halone call sports “a major cultural and socializing force and a cultural industry” (p. 253). Despite this, however, they state that “the wider psychological, social, and cultural significance of sport continues to be underestimated” (p. 254). I definitely agree that the role of sports can be underestimated, particularly by people like me. I went to Twitter to ask some people how they feel about sports in general, and quite a few people seemed to have no interest in it:

Twitter_Poll_Sports
Eve_Jacob_SportsKaren_Junker_SportsMs_Manet_SportsPeople with no interest in sports seem to view them as a distraction at best, or a waste of time at worst. This view even extends into the academic sphere; Mean & Halone refer to scholars dismissing sports as nothing more than mere stereotypes and entertainment (p. 254). Yet this dismissive view seems to stem from the way certain individuals were raised. As I mentioned earlier, Symbolic Interactionism says that “meanings are derived from social interaction.” The tweets above show three individuals who seem to view sports as meaningless. The first two tweets offer hints as to why: sports can be viewed as either “background noise” one tunes out while engaged in other social interaction, or as something external that keeps sports fans busy while non-sports fans go about their lives. In each of these cases, we can see social interaction at work, but the individuals seem to feel excluded or find the interaction to be unwelcome. Yet others view the same type of interaction differently:

Shannon_SportsAlex_Alvarado_SportsHere we see two individuals who seem to have no personal investment in sports, but who value them for their place in socialization. Talking about sports can be used as an “icebreaker” or a way to “keep communication lines open.” Part of the Twitter discussion I was involved in referred to sports as being similar in this way to celebrity gossip, current events, and other media. They give people something to talk about that, for the most part, everyone can relate to. In this way, sports can become an important (if simplified) form of social bonding.

This first step, however, doesn’t really explain the obsession and excitement that true fans experience. This goes beyond simply “having fun,” and into a realm of self-identification. Sports play a part in our cultural perception of gender, particularly masculinity, playing a role that Mean & Halone refer to as “a major impact on understandings, definitions, and demarcations of gender and sexuality that reach beyond the boundaries of sport and into wider culture” (p. 255). Sports can lead to changes in confidence, attitude, and self-awareness, and overcoming the challenges that come with sports can lead to a strong sense of accomplishment and personal value.

Laura_Sports
S_E_Lehenbauer_Sports_3This shift in attitude doesn’t just come from someone playing the sport themselves; people can vicariously participate in their teams’ success or failure and feel like they are “part of the team.” Yet this builds up to another level, when this experience is shared with others. This, I think, is where the real strength of a sports fandom comes into play. Members are part of a community, whether it be a family, a college, or a regional/cultural group:

Camilla_L_Sports_3_001 Camilla_L_Sports_3Esher_Hogan_Sports_2 Esher_Hogan_SportsKristine_Wyllys_SportsLea_Dickson_Sports_3Michelle_Hauck_Sports_4 Michelle_Hauck_Sports_2_TribeThese perspectives tell me a lot about what sports mean to people. They’re more than just something to do on a Sunday afternoon. Because they are part of a shared experience, they become a part of the culture and identity of the people involved. The language being used in these tweets is especially telling; people are “conditioned,” they “obsess,” they view sports like a “religion” or a “tribe.” And Symbolic Interactionism tells us that the way people communicate about something changes their understanding of it. It seems clear that when people are taught to communicate about sports in this way from childhood, it changes how they view sports in their lives. That communication seems to be what makes obsessive sports fans so different from the earlier examples of people who viewed sports as mere distractions.

Because sports can be such an integral part of people’s family life, community, and culture, any apparent threat to this is likely to provoke a strong defensive reaction. Anything that interferes with or threatens to change the culture of sports will be see, by fans, as a threat to their cultural identity. To me, this seems to explain a lot about why some fans are so adamant against changing the Washington Redskins’ name. To someone who isn’t a fan, the reaction would simply be, “What’s the big deal? Just change the name.” But to someone who is a fan, their team is associated with how they interact with others, how they make new friends, how they manage stress, and how they relate to their family and their community. That connection between fan and team makes them take any change to their team as a very personal event.

The Racism Behind A Name

This post is part of my ongoing research into Native American culture and modern issues of oppression. To see all posts on this subject, view the category page.

“Should the Washington Redskins change their name?” This topic is one of major debate right now. The basic argument is that the name is offensive and racist, which makes many Native Americans argue that is should be changed, while many sports fans say that it is a long-standing tradition and a symbol of pride for their team. I’m going to explore both sides of this issue.

There are many different aspects of Native American Culture, history, oppression, racism, and modern views to explore. I haven’t yet narrowed down my primary focus, so for the moment, I’m going to explore some thoughts and ideas here on the blog. Much of this will be a sort of “thinking out loud,” where I try to sort through ideas that I’m not very familiar with. I’ll be sharing research material that comes up as I explore these subjects.

The first thing I want to do, however, is declare my standpoint. In Communication Studies, Standpoint Theory is a theory which states that an individuals perspectives and views will be altered by their place in society, their history, their knowledge, and their power. On a basic level, this means that people from one standpoint can’t understand the troubles of another. For example, a wealthy white male from a privileged home who went to private school and works in the government can’t understand the troubles and life of a minority female who is a single mother living on welfare. Their experiences are different, and that can affect the way one views the other.

Every aspect of your standpoint can influence your view. If you’re the same race as another person, but one of you is rich and one is poor, you’ll have a similar standpoint on some issues and a different standpoint on others. There is no single “catch-all” category that will allow anyone to fully understand anyone else’s viewpoint.

Because I will be attempting to understand a culture I know little about, I am entering this research with firm awareness of my standpoint with regards to this subject. Therefore, I think it is important to declare who I am, so that both myself and anyone reading my research will know my standpoint and be aware of any possible biases or preconceptions my standpoint might bring.

I am a white, heterosexual, single male. I come from a lower-middle class family. I have experienced life working for minimum wage, and I know what it is like to be uncertain where my next meal is coming from. I do not have children, nor do I have any experience raising children (including personal understanding of the struggles and financial burdens of childcare). I am a college graduate, but I am also a nontraditional student and I didn’t graduate college until I was 33.

Based on my standpoint, I understand that I have a limited awareness of racial issues. I read about them, I learn about equal rights in school, and I support equality in every way. I have not, however, experienced the type of oppression that many people from minority groups have.

With that in mind, when I sat down to begin addressing the issue of Native American culture and oppression, I found that I went through a train of thought that ended up leading to an interesting question. The rest of this post will be exploring those thoughts and ending with that question.

My first thought when I was faced with the question “Should the Washington Redskins change their name?” was “It’s football, who cares?” I obviously had to move past this thought, but it’s important because it adds another dimension to my standpoint: I am not a sports fan.

Why is that important? Sports aren’t a crucial social issue, or so I might have said. But then I thought deeper about it, and I realized that someone’s status as a sports fan has some deep cultural implications. Here’s a list of why someone’s standpoint as a sport’s fan is important:

  • There has been research done into the psychological effects of “Sports Team Identification” (when a fan considers themselves part of the team’s group-identity) on a person’s behavior. A study by Keaton, et al., found that “Identified sport team fans who used catharsis, conflict linkage, and relational maintenance report a greater inclination to commit negative social behaviors as a result of team performance” (p. 3). In short, devoted sports fans develop a psychological connection that links their own self-worth to the performance of the team. If the team fails, the fans can feel like failures themselves. This can lead to aggressive behavior such as lashing out.
  • Sports also play a cultural role in our society. They are a group activity with customs, traditions, and an emotional impact on people who are involved with them. Orlando Patterson, a historical and cultural sociologist, said that sports have a “cultural and economic significance” and that “sport is a highly crystallised form of social structure, not found in other areas of society” (p. 550). In essence, this means that sports can be viewed in a cultural context in the same way art, music, and religion can. In fact, it can be argued that sports brings an even greater sense of community, a stronger emotional impact, and more cultural fixation than art does (just compare the number of fans at a sporting event to the number of visitors to a museum).
  • Sports fans are very well known for defending their team, and Sports Team Identification can lead to an “us vs them” attitude. Rival teams (such as the Cowboys vs the Eagles) can lead to fans feeling that fans of the opposing team are “enemies” or at the very least “others” (as in, not part of the “us” group). This can lead to segregation, and if someone from a rival team enters, say, the wrong sports bar, they may be subject to ridicule and aggression.

So by looking at sports in this way, I shifted my understanding of sports as “just another waste of time” (no different in my mind than any other activity), to “a complex, cultural activity that leads to the formation of groups and altered emotions and social behavior.” I think that distinction is important because of the points I’m about to address.

When considering the question of the Washington Redskins’ name change, I think it’s important to address what that change means. Originally, my view was “It’s not a big deal.” When I start thinking about sports teams and their fans as cultural and social constructs, however, it becomes more complex. The proponents and opponents of the name change debate become two different cultures, each with their own history, traditions, beliefs, and practices. Is one set of beliefs more important than the other? Well, I don’t think that’s the important factor here. The important factor is racism.

When I first heard the argument that the Redskins’ name was racist, I stopped and tried to put myself in the shoes of the Native Americans who would be insulted by this name. At first, I had a hard time. I’m Irish, and I could label myself as “Irish-American” instead of just “white.” My grandfather’s family was born in Ireland, and his parents and older brother all moved here before my grandfather was born. I have distant second-cousins still living in Ireland, and my family keeps in touch with them.

Based on my standpoint as an Irish-American, I tried to think how I would feel if the debate about the name change was over another team: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. My thoughts on the matter basically amounted to, “I could be offended that this team name stereotypes Irish as both drunkards and brawlers.” It did not, however, move me to any real emotion (I didn’t get angry or offended over this; I merely considered the possibility that others could).

I felt like I was missing some important point, however. Sports fans in favor of keeping the Redskins’ name have said they feel that the name “honor[s] the Native Americans” as “a symbol of loyalty and courage.” Those statements are easily open to dispute, but rather than focusing on the statements themselves, I want to look deeper.

After giving the issue some thought, I ended up considering the following scenario:

Imagine you are an African American. You find out a new sports team is forming nearby. The team uniforms will be inspired by colors used in the flags of African nations, and the team is meant to “honor African Americans” as “a symbol of African pride and heritage.”

Then you find out that the team will be named “The Mississippi Coloreds.”

Would you find this offensive? Would you want them to change the name? I went to Twitter and asked if people would consider “coloreds” offensive. The responses were consistent: yes, they find it offensive. Along those lines, I am sure there would be a LOT of protest to naming a sports team in this way.

This then brings me to a better understanding of the Redskins’ name change debate. If it’s not okay to name a sports team “honoring African Americans” by naming the team based on the color of that race’s skin, then why do people think it’s okay to name the Redskins in the same way?

Perhaps our society hasn’t had enough education in this regard to view “Redskins” as an offensive term in the same way we do other racist words. Though you might need to consider whether you would ever use the word when speaking to a Native American. I think that a more appropriate way to “honor Native Americans” would be to only use names they embrace, rather than names they find offensive.

This train of thought has certainly influenced the way I view the name change debate. I think that when taken in this context, it should be clear why the name is offensive.

There are a lot of other angles for me to pursue as I take this research forward, but I think what I’ve covered here is helping me to narrow my focus. Some of the key issues are cultures, the “us vs them” perspective that can develop between cultures, and the offensive nature of referring to a group of people based on their skin (even if people claim they are doing it to “honor” them). I’ll be exploring these issues more in the future, and hoping to increase my own understanding as I go along.

Research

Superbowl XLVIII took place on February 2nd, 2014, at the MetLife Stadium located in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Not being a sports fan, I don’t normally pay much attention to anything related to the Superbowl. However, this year, I happened to notice a series of tweets protesting the Superbowl and stating that it was taking place on Native American lands. My curiosity was piqued, and I decided to look a bit deeper into this subject. My preliminary searches brought up a few interesting points:

  • The National Congress of American Indians released an ad during Superbowl weekend, titled “Proud to Be.” As of February 6th 2014, the video on YouTube has already accumulated over one million hits since it was uploaded on January 27. The video speaks about the many names of different Native American tribes and the many diverse roles they have within their culture. It ends with a protest against the name “Redskins,” stating this is a name their people would never use.
  • The video includes a link to “ChangetheMascot.org,” a site devoted to urging the NFL to “end the use of the racial slur “redskins” as the mascot and name of the NFL team in Washington, D.C.
  • I also found some protests on Twitter, stating that East Rutherford, NJ, where the Superbowl was being held, is “occupied Native American land.” Some basic web searches brought me to the Rutherford Chamber of Commerce website. The brief history listed there confirms that the land was originally settled by the Lenape, long before European settlers moved here.
  • Some basic historical research reveals that the Lenape were exposed to smallpox in the early 1600s, along with a number of other diseases. Between disease and warfare, the Lenape population suffered greatly, and “by 1750 it is estimated that the Lenape lost almost 90% of their people.”
  • Many of the Lenape eventually relocated to Oklahoma and Canada, but after some further searching I found that the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation still lives in New Jersey and the area around the Deleware Bay. Their headquarters is now located in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey, about 120 miles from where the Superbowl was held.

All of this preliminary research shows me that there is a lot of ground to cover on this topic. In addition to the initial topic of the Superbowl and the protests against racism and oppression, there is also a lot of history and culture to be uncovered right here in New Jersey. I plan to apply this research to an article that may end up specifically focusing on the racial issues raised by the “Proud to Be” video, or instead focus on other local issues faced by the Lenape nation here in New Jersey, or possibly end up going in another direction as my research reveals more related topics. My initial plan is to gather as much information as I can, in order to narrow down a focal area that I can use as the main topic of the article I plan to write.

One of the obvious target publications if I focus on the Superbowl/Redskins name change angle is Sports Illustrated. A search of their website reveals a number of articles on the subject, including a recent one quoting Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner as saying that “nine out of ten Native Americans support the Redskins’ name.” The number of articles on the subject shows that there is an interest in this area, but I was unable to find any that specifically addressed more focused issues, such as the fact that the Superbowl took place on former Native American lands. The lack of previous articles on these more focused areas may mean that the magazine would be open to something new and fresh.

Another possibility is Native Peoples Magazine. This magazine is more specifically focused on Native American culture, including interviews with interesting Native American people. Their website specifically states that part of their mission is “to provide a ‘sensitive portrayal’ of the Native peoples of the Americas,” so it seems like an ideal place for an article that speaks on Native American culture and offers the viewpoints of Native Americans themselves on current social issues.

A less focused publication that publishes articles on general social issues is The Nation. They specifically seek articles related to civil liberties and civil rights, and a search of their online archives reveals several articles related to the debate surrounding the Redskins’ name change.

Research into this topic should be quite extensive. It’s a subject I’m not familiar with, considering that the only real experience I have with learning about Native American history and culture was what I learned in grade school. Since I’ll be going into this subject with nothing more than the general “common knowledge” level of understanding, I won’t have any preconceived ideas or biases and that should help me to explore this subject with an open mind. In addition, I’ve never engaged in deep research into this sort of social, cultural, and historical topic before. My primary research areas in the past have been related to communication studies and gender issues, so this will be new ground for me.

Furthermore, since the subject has both local areas of research (from the Lenape nation in South Jersey to the East Rutherford lands in North Jersey) and more far-reaching areas (since the Redskins’ name debate is a nationwide issue), there will be a lot of ground to cover. The fact that the Superbowl took place in New Jersey this year may even add a unique perspective to any research, since I may find more local issues and perspectives that can be related to the greater debate.

As I continue with this research, I’ll be posting my findings under a research category on the blog. Also, additional practice research and reflections on research methods themselves will be posted under a secondary category.

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Note: This post was originally a “page” before I figured out how to do some rearrangements that compiled all research posts into a single category listed as a menu item. In order to preserve the content when I took the “page” down, everything from that page was copied into a new post. Original comments are compiled below as screenshots since WordPress unfortunately deletes them along with the page, and there was no way to convert them. I didn’t want to lose the comments and the discussion that took place in them.

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