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Nebraska newspaper will no longer call D.C. football team 'Redskins'

By Kathleen Rutledge
Editor, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star


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Readers of the sports pages may notice a change in the newspaper's style beginning today: We have stopped using the nickname “Redskins” to refer to the professional football team of the nation's capital. When we're reporting on that team, we'll call it Washington.

We also have stopped printing logos for professional and college sports teams that use Native symbols—ones that adopt imagery such as an arrowhead and ones that caricature Native culture. The Chief Wahoo logo of the Cleveland Indians, which we stopped using last summer, is an example of rank caricature. Instead, we'll use alternative logos that stay away from Native symbols.

Finally, we've decided to drop the stereotypical modifier “Fighting” when used with team nicknames such as Fighting Sioux or Fighting Illini.

We've made this decision out of respect for Native people. Plain and simple.

We will no longer use “Redskins” or “Skins” because it is a racial slur. It derives from an old, genocidal practice in this country of scalping Indians to earn a bounty. A bounty hunter could prove he had killed an Indian by turning in a scalp. The bloody scalps were called “redskins.” I learned this from the Portland Press Herald in Maine, which banned “Redskins” from its sports pages in July 2000.

What about Native people who proudly wear “Redskins” caps and shirts? That's their choice, just as it is the choice of other sports fans to emblazon the name across their chests, some in the professed belief that it honors Native people.

I choose to credit the words of a Lakota man who recalled that he wore a “Redskins” T-shirt as a boy. He thought it was cool. When he was older, when he heard fans “woo-wooing,” he saw things differently. “I felt like a cardboard cutout, a cartoon,”' he said.

Last year, the Native American Journalists Association called on news organizations to stop using sports mascots and nicknames that depict Native Americans by 2004.

I asked Sports Editor John Mabry and News Editor Jim Johnson, a NAJA member, to lead our inquiry on this topic. They researched the question, put together a packet of materials that included readers' views, and arranged for newsroom staffers to get together to talk it over. The two made a recommendation, and I have accepted it.

Many sports mascots were adopted at a time in this country when Native people had no voice. Now they have a voice.

Some newspapers have already heeded that voice. The Minneapolis Star Tribune banned the use of all Native team names and mascots in 1994. The Oregonian, the St. Cloud (Minn.)Times, the Portland Press Herald and the Kansas City Star limit publication of Native mascots and images in varying ways.

Today, the Lincoln Journal Star joins their ranks. Out of respect for Native people. Pure and simple.

© 2002 Lincoln Journal Star


NFL team loses trademark protection for 'Redskins'
Attorneys for Washington franchise say they will appeal decision to a court that will review their First Amendment claims.  04.07.99

California may outlaw American Indian mascots
If bill becomes law, state would be first to force public schools to drop Indian team names.  05.23.02

Native Americans ask agency to revoke 'Redskins' trademark
'This is a case about the federal government giving its imprimatur to a racial slur,' says attorney for Native Americans.  05.28.98

Foes fight Cleveland Indians' team logo outside stadium, in court
Anti-Chief Wahoo protesters file suit against city, police, claiming last year's arrests violated their right to free speech.  04.13.99