PRESS BOX: people are not mascots

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Growing up, every Sunday from September through December, was the same. My mom made me and my sister lunch and then she left to run errands. It was our dad’s responsibility to watch us.

My sister and I wanted to watch Disney. Dad wanted to watch football.

There was no compromising on this one; the TV was going to be set to FOX.

It was up to me and my sister’s discretion whether we wanted to watch football with him or do chores.

Obviously, we chose football.

I was probably around eight-years-old, which would have made my sister five, when we started watching our dad cheer for, but mostly yell at, those “god-awful Redskins.”

Week by week, we started to understand the game better. To keep ourselves entertained my sister and I broke out our chalk and chalkboards to keep score. This made 1-4 p.m. on Sundays bearable. Barely.

Eventually we didn’t need the chalkboards to stay entertained. We started genuinely enjoying football, even if most games resulted in those god-awful Redskins getting blown out of the water.

The three of us made Sunday football our “thing.” We broke out the pizza rolls and kneeled in front of the TV on fourth and goal, and did chest bumps after touchdowns.

Then, when I was 11, I met my favorite Redskins player: Chris Cooley. When I was 12 I went to my first Redskins game, decked out head-to-toe in Burgundy and Gold.

Ever since the chalkboard days, I considered myself a die-hard Redskins fan. But as I got older, it became increasingly challenging.

Illustration by Gareth Bentall
Illustration by Gareth Bentall

Not because Washington went through five head coaches in eight years. Not because in the last 13 years they’ve had nine losing seasons. Not even because in 2009 the Redskins handed the Detroit Lions their first win since 2007, snapping Detroit’s 19-game losing streak.

No, that’s all the god-awful shit you put up with when you’re a die-hard fan.

What became increasingly more challenging was when I was old enough to understand what a “redskin” is. According to dictionary.com, a redskin is “a contemptuous term used to refer to a North American Indian.”

Almost every other sports teams’ mascot is an animal or a bird or culturally relevant symbol. Not people.

California, the most populous state in the nation and home to four NFL franchises, passed legislation last year ensuring no public school will ever go by what Washington does.

The Madison, Wisconsin school board passed a dress code last school year prohibiting students from wearing clothing branded with Native American-themed teams to school. Could you imagine being the parent of a Redskins fan and your 8-year-old coming home to lecture you about living people not being used as mascots?

A common argument for keeping Washington’s name is it symbolizes reverence and respect, while honoring the history of Native-Americans.

Native-Americans have even been polled, asking whether or not they find the name “Redskins” offensive. A Washington Post survey from last spring found 90 percent of the Native-Americans polled weren’t offended by the Redskins name.

But that stance ignores the dangerous possibility ethnic names and imagery affect how other people view Native Americans, most likely in muted and harmful ways.

The Washington Post also conducted research by showing participants an unfamiliar mascot: some were shown Native American imagery, while others were shown an animal.

Participants were measured by how much they associated Native-Americans with “warlike,” a stereotype leveraged by many sports teams using Native mascots. When asked directly, participants, regardless of the mascot they saw, reported no differences in how warlike they perceived Native Americans.

Initially, it might be viewed as a positive to be seen as warlike. After all, isn’t that associated with bravery and toughness?

But studies have shown how stereotypes of any kind, even positive ones, carry consequences.

Stereotypes can lead to performance anxiety, as Sapna Cheryan and her colleagues found when looking at stereotypes concerning Asian Americans’ math ability. Cheryan, an Associate Professor at the University of Washington, recently conducted subsequent studies showing how experiencing a positive stereotype can make people expect future prejudicial treatment.

Most recently, Native-Americans have been neglected over the construction of a pipeline. According to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the pipeline’s construction would trample on tribal lands and destroy artifacts in North Dakota.

Anti-pipeline protesters and tribes members rallied together in August. From the site in North Dakota to outside of the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., hundreds have assembled together over the $3.7 billion project.

Even dozens of people from tribal reservations in San Diego County have given donations and made the trip to the camp in recent weeks to deliver supplies, according to local organizers.

Despite their national efforts, editors of major news outlets throughout the country completely overlooked the protests during budgeting meeting.

Native-Americans have been forgotten and left out of everday America for centuries. Despite making up a minuscule .016 percent of the American population, it is inexcusable go about omitting Native-Americans’ lives as valuable and authentic members of American culture.

By continuing to call a national football team the “Redskins,” America is belittling the lives of Indigenous People. “Redskin” is a racial slur. Human beings are not mascots.


SPORTS EDITOR

Sophia Belletti. Photo by Julie TrippSophia Belletti
Sophia is a junior journalism major pursuing a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies. She enjoys writing about current events and sports, and hopes to one day be a sports reporter covering soccer, basketball and/or baseball. You can usually find Sophia drinking way too much coffee and laughing at her own jokes.
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bellettisr@commonwealthtimes.org


ILLUSTRATIONS EDITOR

Gareth Bentall. Photo by Julie TrippGareth Bentall
Gareth is a cartoonist and illustrator currently in his senior year as a communication arts student. He specializes in political cartoons, humorous illustration, underground comic trivia, bird watching, hoarding, forwarding, boogie boarding and Parcheesi. Gareth currently resides inside of his inkpot. Last year, Gareth won the National Society of Professional Journalists award for Editorial Cartooning.
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bentallgr@commonwealthtimes.org

1 Comment on PRESS BOX: people are not mascots

  1. Well said Miss Belletti. Dan Snyder and his Washington football fans can deny the dictionary all they want, but the public is waking up to reality. Native themed mascots kill. Regardless of intent, racism is the result when it comes to the Washington football team name and imagery. Thank you for penning this.

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