Over the course of the last few years, much has been made about the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins’ team name. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has tried to defend it. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has steadfastly refused to change it. U.S. Senators have petitioned against it. And TV shows like South Park and The Daily Show have tried to make sense of it. But has the controversy been overblown?
The Washington Post recently conducted a poll in order to try and find out how Native Americans really feel about the word “Redskins” today. They surveyed 504 Native American people from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. and asked them a series of questions about themselves and the Redskins name, including this one: “The professional football team in Washington calls itself the Washington Redskins. As a Native American, do you find that name offensive, or doesn’t it bother you?”
According to the poll’s results, only 9 percent of respondents find the word “Redskins” offensive with 90 percent saying the word doesn’t bother them and one percent having no opinion on the subject. Additionally, 70 percent of respondents said they don’t think the term “Redskin” is disrespectful and 80 percent said they wouldn’t be offended if someone who is not Native American called them “Redskin.” As the Washington Post pointed out, the Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted a similar poll in 2004 that produced identical results.
Snyder was obviously ecstatic about the poll’s findings and wasted no time issuing a statement to the Washington Post:
The Washington Redskins team, our fans and community have always believed our name represents honor, respect and pride. Today’s Washington Post polling shows Native Americans agree. We are gratified by this overwhelming support from the Native American community, and the team will proudly carry the Redskins name.
But not everyone is buying the results of the poll. Suzan Harjo, who is a part of the Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee tribes and is leading the legal charge challenging the Redskins’ rights to trademark protections, spoke with the Washington Post about the poll and rejected its findings.
“I just reject the results,” Harjo said. “I don’t agree with them, and I don’t agree that this is a valid way of surveying public opinion in Indian Country.”
Harjo seemed to take issue with the fact that only 504 of the country’s estimated 5.4 million Native American people were surveyed for the poll.
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Copyright 2016 IAR Magazine