Racism has existed for centuries. We have been witnesses to its suppressed re-emergence because of the coronavirus and the murders of black citizens. Not only have black people and those of color been stigmatized because of race, but so have the Indigenous people. Over the years, sports teams have been named after terms that Native Americans deem racist, none worse than the NFL team from Washington.

The team was born in the early 1930’s. In its history, the organization appeared in five Superbowls and won three. Dan Snyder purchased the team in 1999, and the team never played in a Superbowl under his tenure. He re-named the home stadium Fed Ex Field, in Landover, Maryland, and reached the playoffs five times. Sadly, the team never went further than the Wild Card round. Those are disappointing results for a once proud franchise. To add to their misery was the constant pressure to change their name and remove their logo because it was offensive to most of the Native American community, yet there were a few who supported the name. I am unsure why anyone would support the previous nickname, because it is racist.

The issue was once again brought to the forefront a few months ago. Sponsors of the franchise threatened to boycott the team if its name was not changed. The threat brought about positive results. Snyder and his ownership group should not have let it get this far. When there was concern from the Native community in the 1990’s, ownership should have given strong consideration towards a name change. It took sponsors like Fed Ex and Nike to threaten withdrawal. It was only then that Snyder became active. Currently, the temporary name is the “Washington Football Team.” Hopefully when they decide on a permanent name, it will be more thoughtful and less discriminatory than the previous one.

There are other teams in sports whose names and logos have created controversy in the Aboriginal community. The Cleveland Indians have not yet changed their name, but they eradicated the smiling caricature of Chief Wahoo a few years ago. The Edmonton Eskimos are going through a name change because of sponsors threatening to leave the club. While the Atlanta Braves are keeping their team name, the organization is thinking about eliminating the “Tomahawk Chop” chant. If that occurs, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Florida State Seminoles may go through a process to eliminate that chant as well.

The Washington Football Team should not have waited almost nine decades to change its team name and logo. If anything, it should have happened after Snyder assumed ownership, or when he started hearing complaints about the previous name from the Native American community. I am sure there were a few who were in Snyder’s inner circle who felt the name was not right, but were too afraid to speak up. With the threat of losing sponsors, the owner of the Washington Football Team was forced into doing something he insisted he would never, ever do. In the end, what has happened with Washington, Edmonton and Cleveland demonstrates that money talks. In reality, Snyder should have demonstrated empathy and compassion a long time ago. If he had, the Football Team would not have found itself with the problems it encountered.

The current awakening of the racism that exists will hopefully bring about global change. Members of the Black community have been made to feel inferior for too many years. The Indigenous community has had its share of being treated differently. What society needs to keep in mind is the fact that Black people built America. They came as slaves – many of them endured tough lives, but they were never given a fair chance. Likewise, the land we claim is ours, is not. This land belonged to the Indigenous people.

I fully support Black Lives Matter and the cause behind the movement. I believe if there is more equity in the land and more understanding for all, we will have a better understanding of the world. It must start at the top. If leaders incite hate and racism, their followers or bases will be motivated to do the same. Remember, a little empathy goes a long way.

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