"Rethink, Rename, Replace," a campaign to #ChangeTheMascot of the Washington NFL team. Image: National Congress of American Indians and Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians

Tribal organizations take on Washington NFL team with social media campaign

Tribal leaders launch campaign to oppose Washington NFL team name

By Kevin Abourezk

An organization representing more than 50 Northwest tribes has launched a social media campaign meant to shame the Washington NFL team into giving up its mascot and changing its name.

The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, in coordination with the National Congress of American Indians, kicked off the #ChangeTheMascot campaign on Friday, in preparation for a matchup between Washington and the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

The November 3 game was chosen for a reason, and not just because the Northwest tribes are huge Seahawks fans. The Seattle and Washington teams have taken drastically different approaches to dealing with Native Americans, NCAI President Jefferson Keel said.

“The Seattle Seahawks have demonstrated how an NFL team can and should work respectfully with Native nations,” he said. “It collaborated with Indian Country to ensure that its logo is culturally appropriate and honors Native heritage.”

“Conversely, the Washington team chooses to dishonor and disrespect Native peoples through its continued use of its name and logo. NCAI remains committed to its decades-long fight to see that this dictionary-defined racial slur is thrown into the dustbin of history,” said Keel, who serves as the lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation and was elected as NCAI's president during the organization's 74th annual convention last month.

ATNI and NCAI have developed a social media toolkit that provides messages and images that people can use to show opposition to the Washington team’s name. That toolkit can be found at: bit.ly/2h1Uyf8

People wishing to support the campaign, which will run until Monday, also are encouraged to use the hashtag #ChangeTheMascot. They can also change their social media profile photos with a #ChangeTheMascot twibbon tool.

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Tribes have long criticized the use of the term “redskins,” saying the term was once used to describe Native American scalps that bounty hunters would bring to the U.S. government in exchange for payment. It's listed in most dictionaries as offensive.

ATNI President Leonard Forsman, who also serves as the chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, said the term and its use as a football team’s name is “demeaning and damaging to Native people.”

“We must unite our efforts against this injustice and demand that the league recognize that the use of culturally offensive names and mascots will not be tolerated by the people of this nation,” he said.

Efforts to change the Washington mascot name suffered a big setback this year when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that activists were using to challenge the team's trademarks. Tribes and activists have vowed to continue their public relations efforts against the name.

To learn more about the #ChangeTheMascot campaign, visit www.ncai.org/proudtobe and ChangeTheMascot.org.

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