Why "Redskins" Is Wrong

Think of a vile name that you were called by bullies at school based on your religion, your race, your country of origin, or some other characteristic. How did it make you feel? If I call you by the same name but tell you that my intention is to honor you by using it, will you feel honored just because I say so, or would you suggest that I find another way to show my appreciation?

"Redskin" is a vile name. It's a name that people who hate American Indians often call them. Every dictionary defines "Redskins" as being offensive, derogatory and a racial epithet. Even with the best intentions, naming a sports team the New York Kikes, the Seattle Slant Eyes, the Atlanta Niggers, or the Washington Redskins will likely offend the very group you want to honor. And they're the ones who should know if the name is an honor or not.

The ACLU is a champion of free speech. The issue here isn't whether Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins has a right to call his team anything he wants. He does. The issue is whether he should perpetuate racism.

Numerous Indian organizations have issued policies and proclamations imploring non-Indians to stop "honoring" them by using Indians as mascots or logos. According to the National Congress of American Indians, Indian mascots and logos "perpetuate racism and bigotry." The National Indian Education Association, the largest Indian education organization in the country, passed a resolution in 2009 that "calls for the immediate elimination of race-based Indian logos, mascots, and names from educational institutions throughout the Nation" on the grounds that the exposure to such race-based imagery "harms American Indian students." Similarly, the American Psychological Association recommended discontinuing American Indian mascots and logos because such symbols "have a negative impact on the self-esteem of American Indian children." Suzan Shown Harjo, an Indian advocate and the executive director of the Morning Star Institute, states that an Indian mascot, regardless of how it is portrayed, results "in dehumanizing actual Native people." There is no honor in being someone's mascot.

Numerous people and organizations have beseeched Snyder, to change the team's name. This includes, in addition to Indian organizations, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which passed a resolution stating that the name is "demeaning and dehumanizing to Native Americans." President Obama suggested that Snyder consider changing the name. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer recently wrote that the continued use of "Redskins" as the name of a sports team cannot be defended. Commentator Bob Costas wrote an editorial agreeing with Krauthammer.

It's not illegal for Snyder to use a racist name for his football team. But why do it when it offends so many people? His stadium used to be called "Redskins Stadium," until FedEx paid him $250 million to change the name to FedEx Field.

Our society continues to evolve. Many words that were in common usage decades ago have been relegated to the garbage heap because they are recognized today as demeaning and derogatory. Dan Snyder, who is not an Indian, states that the name of his team is a source of Indian pride. Even assuming that's so, it is also a source of prejudice. Republican Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma, an American Indian, recently stated that the name "Washington Redskins" is "just simply inappropriate. It is offensive to a lot of people."

The team has a proud history and dedicated fans. Hopefully the team will soon adopt a name that isn't racially derogatory.

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The Redskins are a private organization and the owners have a right to call it whatever they want. Why is the ACLU getting involved in this issue, when it clearly is a non-governmental issue? If the public doesn't like the name, they can lobby, protest, and not buy tickets to Redskins games.

The ACLU should not be involved in this issue, EXCEPT if the government orders a name change. Then it should defend the Redskins organization.

What is next? Oklahoma is Choctaw for "red people," yet I don't see the ACLU clamoring for a name change for this, the most backward of all states with regard to civil rights.

I want my ACLU dues to be used for defending my privacy and free speech rights from GOVERNMENT intrusion. This is a matter for the marketplace to decide.

Danielle Knutson

Ugh. These comments are ridiculous. Here are some helpful links describing why the name must be changed. And for the white people who say "Many, many indians don't find this offensive" you need to educate yourself. You sound like an idiot.









I donate to the ACLU to protect free speech, not to try and suppress it. Yes the name sucks, no it's not the ACLU's place to make that call.

Jared MacD.

ACLU blew it with this one. Offensive and hate speech is protected, and that's what the ACLU is supposed to stand for. I'm withdrawing my monthly donation.

Michael Meyers

When since is the ACLU in the business of being our language police?
The ACLU's mission is to defend free speech, including "offensive" and "vile" speech. Here--for whatever "reason"--the ACLU is declaring certain words so "offensive" as to warrant their banning or disuse. How does a civil liberties organization urge the discontinued use--i.e. the banning, of words? He and the ACLU urge that the name of the Redskins team be changed because times have changed. Pevar's argument (weird for an ACLUer) is what's outdated. He claims: "Our society continues to evolve. Many words that were in common usage decades ago have been relegated to the garbage heap because they are recognized today as demeaning and derogatory." He neglects to point out that some "derogatory" and "offensive" words--such as nigger--are no longer "offensive" or derogatory in the context of our times, and their use, especially when the minority that was the target of the racial epithet adopts the word as "their own" or as part of their identity. Examples include blacks calling themselves--and their friends of whatever color--"niggers" or "niggas." And, let's not forget that some, even many gays, refer to themselves as "fags" or "faggots."
Are certain words off limits for some but not for others?
When will/does the ACLU decide the words are "offensive" as to warrant banning or a change? Will Pevar and the ACLU now urge BOOK PUBLISHERS that Mark Twain's classic be updated (to our times) so that all references to "Nigger Jim" be deleted?

Pevar's is not a civil liberties argument. It stands civil liberties principles upside down. This is not an ACLU that I recognize at all.

Michael Meyers, Executive Director, New York Civil Rights Coalition. (Yes, I am a former ACLU vice president and former longtime National ACLU and NYCLU board member).

Andrew from San...

This was pointless. I thought the ACLU was a government watchdog group to prevent the erosion of constituionally recognized civil liberties. This is none of that. This was a rant complaining about a private organization exercising its first amendment rights. Whether a term offends people or not makes no difference, and the ACLU shouldn't even be wrighing in.

As for "having a mascot named after you is no honor", I call b.s. I'm sure the Vikings would be proud to have a sports team named after them. Oh wait... the vikings mascot is white.... it must be racist! Time to file a lawsuit!!!!!


The article stops short of clarifying what should be done within the context of protecting civil liberties. However the resolution just adopted by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights makes it clear. The owner and fans can say what they want; but in deciding to use a pejorative as their teams name they are promoting racism, and no individual, organization, or government should be complicit in this. Businesses do not operate in a social vacuum, so anything that can be construed as supporting the team should be withdrawn until the name changes. It should certainly not be repeated casually on the public airwaves, any more than any other offensive word. Several former FCC officials have recommended this; but I do not know how the public can influence this process other that filing individual complaints.

As to the whether the name is really a slur, just look in the dictionary. Definitions are arrived at by the examination of the way words are actually used in context, and the context for "redskin" has been derogatory and insulting.

See: Washington Redskins name controversy in Wikipedia


Um there are 3 American Indian high schools with redskins nick names. That is 5 percent of the total way about general population. Bob costas and Charles both have poor commentary to put it kindly. In total 8 percent of native Americans don' like to be called Indians and 9 percent are bothered by the name Washington redskins. Many also do not like the term native American or that our capital city was named after too big Indian killers. This issue is being pushed by snobbery as much as anything and of course cultural imperialism.

Step one find people of subordinate group to ally with.
Step two tell people what is good for them i.e. me
step three redefine language, religion, and land property rights to benefit onces self or group in this case social climbing cocktail party progressives with little intellectually integrity. The ACLU can to much better no doubt.

This article is a small but powerful example of what white propertied males have been going for centuries.

What the game or joke. We don't want to be reminded of the Indians because we killed them off and do not mind. Name the tribe that was killed that the ACLU building is standing on? Name a verb in and American Indian language.


I agree that the name Washington Redskins is deeply derogatory and reflects very poorly on the team. They should change it to the Greater Maryland Area Redskins. Or, they could move to Oklahoma, but Oklahoma Redskins would be redundant.

So, when do we insist that Oklahoma change its name?

from Richard, V...

I've never been a minority in terms of skin color, but I became a minority after going to Vietnam and returning to protesters, who called us "baby killers" - ALL of us, they didn't stop to ask each one if we had actually done that - and some do to this day. A few weeks a go, a hater online called me that on the basis of knowing my veteran status and nothing else about me.
I usually try to find it amusing, being called that under such a circumstance, but sometimes it fails to come across and that was one of those times.
I think it's that I would prefer to be called such a dastardly name face to face, not monitor to face and I made it known.
Yes, I could see how they would be sick of it after Centuries of this inane practice. It's been mere decades with me; fortunately, I won't HAVE to endure decades of it.


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