American Indian Group Puts the Racism of Some Sports Logos Into Context

The National Congress of American Indians has recently come out with a hard-hitting poster framing the context of how degrading, insulting and racist using Native American images such as that of the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins really is.

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Just last week, President Obama weighed in on the controversy saying that he would personally suggest changing the name of the Washington Redskins.

Joanna Schroeder, writing for the Good Men Project, poignantly notes that, “If you wouldn’t wear a New York Jews or San Francisco Chinamen hat, you shouldn’t encourage sports teams to use Native images, names or iconography.”

Perhaps it is the fact that so many Americans interact with so very few Native Americans that leaves the masses with the impression that “no one really minds” or is offended. When other cultures are framed in such insulting, and stereotypical images, it becomes clear that no self-respecting member of such groups could, would or should take this without protest or offense.

(Article by Ari Simeon; image via NCAI)

Posted in: Racism

62 Comments on "American Indian Group Puts the Racism of Some Sports Logos Into Context"

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  1. Chris says:

    I, as an American Indian descendent, have no problems with the names of sports teams being Indian. But I also remember the rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words won’t hurt me”.

    • lcb says:

      Wow, I’m so glad you said that. After all, Chris, you definitely capture the entire sentiment of every Native person ever so obviously any criticism of the teams is now negated because you don’t mind their team name and logo.

      P.S. That rhyme only applies if you ignore years of psychological research that say that bullying through words does, in fact, hurt individuals. In particular, racist statements do actually cause considerable damage to a person’s mental health, so your sense of superiority in remembering a rhyme from your childhood actually only reveals your ignorance in how racism works.

      • h says:

        I don’t think Chris mentioned anywhere he was speaking on behalf of the native population, neither did he suggest that ‘sticks and stones’ will apply to anyone else other than him.

        Nice try, but your sarcasm is completely overshadowed by your stupidity.

      • earl says:

        He said, ‘I’, as in he personally. He did not say he was speaking for all native Americans, shut up and listen next time, you privileged rube.

        • heather sherrick says:

          Earl he was the one who brought it up with reference to the subject for you to be angry and attack is wrong we all have the right to say how we feel with out being attacked.My grandchild say’s shut up when he is being told something he doesn’t like or want to do.I am part Native American Cherokee,Choctaw and Irish my children are Navajo and Pueblo on there father’s side and my second husband is Chippewa and they all don’t like to see the fan’s dressing up and making fun of them this subject has been coming up a lot on the my husband tribes Facebook page and there are people who are very upset about this issue for so long Natives have just sat back and been abused dearly it’s more than the treaty’s not being honored but the boarding school’s the children being taken and horrible abused,the women being sterilized and there is so much more we are “IDLE NO MORE” and I will tell you if it were a team that had a reference to the “N” word and we can’t even say the word by the way it would be shut down in a heartbeat so what is the difference? Some Natives have been so conditioned to the abuse they don’t even see when they are being insulted.Until we demand respect we will not get it they will keep running over us..I for one want it changed and I will stand with A.I.M…Because they will stand up for us they alway’s have…CHANGE THE NAME DO THE RIGHT THING….You are getting a lot of attention why don’t you think of a name that will honor the Native American??

      • FeministCookie says:

        THANK YOU. It aggravates me to no end when I see stuff like that. There are a few possible reasons they mention it, either a) They think their opinion as a member of the marginalized group being addressed casts doubt on the validity of the grievance put forth from the group as a whole, or b) They are merely stating their personal opinion, which adds absolutely no value to the discussion whatsoever.

      • michael says:

        way to be a dick Icb….it’s pretty clear he’s speaking for himself.

      • Trisha Blake says:

        Thank you Icb. I agree with you. Words do hurt and these folks really need to look into the reasons why Native People object to being used for profit of sports teams.

      • Jjthejj says:

        You are why we yse the word “pussy” so ingloriously.

    • N says:

      You are being shouted down by people who feel offended that you are not offended.

      I am not going to convince any of those that are already captivated by this egoic mind pattern so this is for the fence sitters: Being offended by anything is a huge waste of time.

      It’s not what happens its what you think about it that matters. By taking offense you render yourself a victim.

      If you are judging me based on my ethnicity I feel a little sad – for you.

      • dmf says:

        Said the white guy with no apparent concept of history.

        • lj says:

          says a dude with a beer in his hand to someone who certainly does not look like a white guy?
          why do people have to be obnoxious to each other.
          when did it become impossible to state an opinion?
          actually the question should be when did it become impossible to state an opinion different from someone else’s?

          • anymouse says:

            dmf didn’t say you weren’t allowed to express your opinion; s/he just explained that in the light of the well-documented negative effects of racism, that opinion’s kinda bunk.

    • Danial Gambler says:

      Well Chris, I as a Navajo don’t particularly care much for it. I’m not a logo and I’m not a mascot.

    • Sarah says:

      Chris, you claim to be a descendent, do you have a status card?

  2. ignatzz says:

    To actually get the point across to the people you need to persuade, you need a “Cracker” logo.

  3. Sam says:

    It’s long past time for the Cleveland “Indians” to change their name and drop Chief Wahoo, aka Little Red Sambo. Join the 11,000+ people who have already signed to get Cleveland to make a change:

  4. Reenz says:

    @Chris, as another native person (Dine`) i feel we have to be careful about what we say to one another because statements like yours can and will be used to downplay the offended feelings of quite a few natives. People will twist your statement and say the same old argument that just because some “young kids throw around the word nigger in music and amongst each other, so its okay for everyone to do so.”
    When in actuality, no, its not. Its a derogatory word that just because it doesn’t offend everybody doesn’t mean it doesn’t offend anybody. Just because some people are okay saying the word ni**er, doesn’t make it okay for anyone to say it…much less put it on a hat and t-shirt.

    If you want to look at this another way…(lets say) the term “Redskin” isn’t offensive, how do you all feel about the masses of drunken idiots whoopin around in plastic feathers, headdresses, and faces painted red mocking traditional ceremonies and dances in their drunken antics.

    Here is a video from the National Museum of American Indians regarding a symposium on the topic:

    • Dave says:

      I just don’t understand how dressing up like Native Americans and doing war dances is making a mockery. If it were being done to purposely mock, then ok. But it’s all in love and tribute of the mascot; of the image of the Native American chosen to symbolize a team for their bravery and honor. In Green Bay, they call themselves the Packers IN HONOR of their heritage in an industry of cheese, for God’s sake. They wear stupid hunks of cheese on their heads IN HONOR of it. They look absolutely ridiculous but every cheese packer knows its IN HONOR OF THEIR HERITAGE. It’s not to disparage, at all.

      • MBD says:

        Well if cheese packers had been slaughtered by bread-makers and the bread-makers decided to make a team called the “cheese packers” whereby fans wore cheese on their heads, etc. etc. then i would suspect that the last remaining descendants of the slain cheese packers might have a problem with that.

        • Justin says:

          Also imagine that after losing a war the victors of that war created a sports team and kept losing too. Salt in the wound… I think this might go over well if the Indians win something.

  5. Chuck says:

    Reenz, why do you think that wearing feathers, head dresses, face paint, and yelling war whoops is automatically mocking? Are fraternities and sororities mocking the Ancient Greeks when they have toga parties and get drunker than Bacchus?

  6. Chris says:

    This is where I have an issue with the entire topic. There are a very small number of people who are truly offended by this situation. And yes I believe there is a line in numbers that you have to cross before you have the right to force someone to change what is at this point a historical name/logo/image.

    Everyone has the right in this country to BE offended. I encourage you to indulge yourself. HOWEVER that does NOT grant you the right to force anyone to do something differently. Being offended is not a protected status. You can be offended, you can even say so until you are out of breath. Unless the target of your ire CHOOSES to accommodate you you have nothing more to say other than “I am offended”

    These teams have been in existence for decades and while I’m sure there was outrage and offense taken all through this time no major push was made or given enough effort to force a change in all these years. At this point the names logos and everything that goes with them have become historical items. Demanding they change them to suit someone’s sensibilities is beyond arrogant.

    My further point is, What good will come of forcing a change? Will it make life better for native Americans? Will it absolve anyone of the horrors and misdeeds of the past?

    No, in fact doing so will do nothing more than draw down further negativity and ire upon a proud people who have already overcome hundreds of years of mistreatment.

    As for the drunken whooping it up, as has been said, perhaps if you accepted the fact that what is being done has absolutely nothing to do with degrading or insulting someone’s culture and everything to do with simply supporting the team of their choice you could more clearly understand the reluctance of anyone to truly support your position.

    For the record, I’d wear those other hats. Why? because they’d be nothing more than logos placed upon fictional teams playing boys games for big money. Any inferred insult comes only from the individual. Racism, while not dead, is kept on life support by those who constantly use it to bludgeon their own issues onto others.

    Would *I* personally change things if I could? Perhaps, if I could come up with a logo I felt was representative. I would not change the names however. Indians and Redskins stopped relating directly to native Americans far too long ago. The nicknames have grown into sports history, They no longer actually mean the negative things that are claimed against them.

    They stand for sports teams, Not cultures.


    • Lisa S. says:

      Not for nothing, but there’d be a lot more Native Americans out there to offend if 98% of their population hadn’t been killed off by Europeans through genocide & disease epidemics.

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you for your comment – a rational and reasoned one. You can’t be offended unless you choose to be.

    • Galen says:

      No one has suggested that the team be forced to change their name. There is simply an ongoing conversation in which a growing number of people believe that it would be appropriate for the team to change their logo.
      You appear to be the most offended person in the room, yet the offense is imagined.
      It is absurd to suggest that a caricature of an Native American in no way stands for an Native American, or that it’s reproduction does not effect peoples perception of Native American’s, especially when they are so underrepresented in popular culture as a whole.
      There was a time when blunt caricatures of various minorities were much more common. This has changed because of the diligent, thoughtful work of many people and organizations, and many of us believe that our culture is richer for it; Richer for having replaced infantile caricature with complex, nuanced and infinitely varied human stories.

    • Adam says:

      This is the only argument that needs to be made. As someone else said, it’s rational and it’s reasonable.

      To add to it, though, here’s something no one is considering…the ethnic makeup of the rosters of the teams that have the “offensive” nicknames. Some of the players on the teams in question are black players. One would think that black people, as much as anyone, would have a legitimate reason not to wear a logo that has historical connotations to acts of marginalization and genocide performed by white people. Yet we see Michael Bourn playing center field for the Cleveland Indians and RGIII as the very proud franchise quarterback for the Washington Redskins. That says a lot more about the topic than any contrived offenses that have been put forth by a very small hypersensitive group of people.

      Besides, it’s not like the Natives are doing terribly poorly for themselves, despite the cry of the perennially pained. They enjoy tax-exempt status, sovereign land, and the ability to trade with white people and non-natives for significant profit. And you know what? Good for them. If they can open up large gas stations with massive trading post-style convenience stores or casinos or other businesses and make money, that’s the power of commerce and I love seeing them to do so. Any atrocities that were committed against the Indians as reported to us, and there are stories and other pieces of anecdotal evidence to suggest that they’re not completely true (see the story of Joseph Brant, among others), have long since stopped and there isn’t a reason for those of us who are descended from the people who may or may not have committed these acts to feel any lingering sense of guilt or responsibility for said acts.

      • Colin says:

        Your comment is just as racist as the original. It’s so clear that you’re part of the white privilege. You’ve never felt empathy towards anyones race or culture because your’s is the “expected norm”. You’re not Native American, how can YOU decide what is seriously offensive, and what isn’t? The people whose land we are occupying have suffered, and are still suffering from horrifying social injustices, through their treatment in the media ( sports teams named “Redskins” and the “chief wahoo” mascot), through the crippling legislature (examples on, and for the lack of knowledge for the “White Privileged” like yourself, Adam.

    • MoMo says:


      Some things go beyond “the numbers”. Some things are bad & morally wrong, period. The fact that they were once acceptable does not negate any of that.

      Racism is racism.

  7. Life In Philly says:

    Before I make any comment, I admit that I do not know my sports naming history.

    But, I still don’t understand. I assume the team was named “Indians” because the Native Americans are so bad-ass and tough. Why would they call themselves something they consider a joke?

  8. Margaret Robinson says:

    I’m Mi’kmaw and I find the team name insulting and disrespectful. Also insulting is the insistence that it’s okay to use it, regardless how offensive it is.

  9. TG says:

    For this to have effect on the desired demographic there needs to be all white demographics included. Most my white friends are opening racist to darker colors but tell a joke about their European heritage and they get all bent.

    We need The Milwaukee Nazi’s, The Cleveland Dumb Pollocks, The Bronx WOPs, etc.

    • Whoooooo says:

      Now that’s just rude. “Indian” is not a pejorative term. “American Indian” is more accurate (assuming they didn’t name the team after Hindi’s), but it would make for an awkward name.

      Likewise, if they were the “Cleveland Drunken Indians”, I could see how you would have a case to have claim we should have a “Dumb Pollack” team. But the equivalent name would more likely be the Cleveland Polonia. See- isn’t that nicer?

      • Educator says:

        Hindu = religion
        Hindi = language
        Indians = citizens of India, a large country whose population includes Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians et al.

        • MoMo says:

          “Indians = citizens of India, a large country whose population includes Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians et al.”

          Which is why the indigenous people were called “Indians”. They though they landed in India, not what was to be known as “The Americas”.

  10. Mike Dude says:

    Hey, How about Detroit Negroes or LA Gringos

  11. dave says:

    firstly, I am unsure if the word “Indians” is appropriate to use or not, since it has been a centuries-old misnomer. secondly, I would like to see opinions of the Cleveland team retaining the name and losing the bad cartoon Indian face.

  12. Knightm7 says:

    I noticed this is the most polite conversation I’ve seen on the topic of the name and logo being offensive. It seems to be because the point was made. It is stereotypical, not complimentary.

    It reminds me of seeing Wall-e in the theater. Nobody left a single piece of garbage in the theater when they left. The point was made.

    Tell your offensive jokes, make your offensive movies or tv shows, I won’t approve or send my son to see it. But don’t keep a professional sports team’s name offensive, young people will be raised with daily exposure to negativity and acceptance.

  13. Bagel Consultant says:

    I’m a Jew who lives in NYC and I would DEFINITELY wear the NY Jews hat. Seriously, it’s awesome.

    • MBD says:

      Perhaps this is because your personal experience in the United States has been one of significantly more privilege than that of most Native Americans in this country. As well, as a fellow Jew, i do not find the hat to be amusing, particularly if one is to assume that it was created by a non-Jew for the amusement and profit of non-Jews off of stereotypes.

      If Native Americans were the ones responsible for sports teams mascots and names, then i would imagine no one would be upset. But since it is caricaturization at their expense and others’ profit, that is why many – most even – within Native American communities are upset.

  14. W says:

    I’ve always found it sweetly ironic that the Cleveland Indians’ logo Indian, “Chief Wahoo,” lives at PROGRESSIVE Field.

  15. Joseph says:

    I always thought the Indian chief Wahoo had a smile to show no matter how much the Indians have been through Indians are still here standing tall. Can’t keep a warrior down. Go Indians!!!!!

  16. Marc Zazeela says:

    I think one should consider the spirit behind the name. Is it fun and harmless or is it malicious and bigoted?

    I am Jewish. So long as the NY Jews was not created and used in a derogatory manner, I have no problem with the team name.

    Prejudice and bigotry are horrible thoughts. But, so are the hyper sensitivities of the folks who would have us live in a bland, white bread world.

    Ethnicity can be celebrated and glorified when major sports organizations use it correctly. They can help us think about each other’s roots and understand we all come from somewhere.

  17. David Bass says:

    I am a native Texan with Irish ancestry and I am a big fan of Houston Texans and I do not have problem with Texans team name. Many cowboys (including “urban cowboys” such as myself) do not have problem with Dallas Cowboys name as well (even though I hate Cowboys team due to Houston-Dallas rivalry). As I’m part Irish and I do not have problem with Notre Dame team name, The Fightin’ Irish. The packers in Wisconsin are very proud fans of Green Bay Packers. So are Sooners, Aggies, Patriots, Miners, Canadiens, and others. I and others are PROUD to have teams named after our ancestry, jobs, and others! We do NOT complain about it at all.

  18. Doa74656 says:

    Love the hats
    I think they are HYSTERICAL!
    I think you’re on to something I’d get them in stores ASAP I’d buy the NY and the SF one
    BTW did you have a point or something?

  19. PainPro says:

    Would the SF hat be yellow and the NY hat be copper?

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