Washington’s “Redskins” Nickname: A Timeline

Introduction: It’s hard to find in one place a bunch of objective information about the controversy surrounding the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. This humble attempt crams the most relevant info into a single timeline. There will always be more polls and more persons for and against, so this summary intends only to mark the arc of the controversy. The inclusion or exclusion of any particular fact will undoubtedly cause some from either side to question this writer’s objectivity.

Colonial era: European explorers saw Newfoundland’s Beothuk people cover themselves (and a whole bunch of other stuff) in oxide-rich soil. The newcomers may have made note of these “red skins.” It's undeniable that Native Americans generally have more richly colored skin than Europeans, and “red men” or “red skins” may have been innocently evolved ways to distinguish the natives from newly arrived (and relatively defined) “white skins.”

1863: September 24: The Daily Republican (Winona, Minn.) posts this announcement: “The State reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory. This sum is more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.” When this story is uncovered in November 2013, the anti-Redskin faction says it’s the smoking gun that proves redskin is derived from the description of bloody [red] scalps turned in by white bounty hunters. While the post certainly indicates a murderous disrespect for the region’s indigenous people (in this case, the Dakotas), Purgatory is a non-physical waiting room for souls; you do not send a bloody scalp there. It’s therefore easier to argue that the passage proves that red-skin is not a reference to a body part but to a person’s incorporeal essence. Again, any person who sees only economic opportunity in Minnesota’s dead-Indian bounty is less than evolved, but the word Jew doesn’t assume a false etymology and doesn’t gain a pejorative meaning just because Hitler & Co. set out to slaughter those identified as “the Jews.”

1884: August 17: William Henry Dietz is born in Rice Lake, Wisconsin to parents of German extraction.

1904: Dietz’s gets a job working on Indian exhibits at the St. Louis World’s Fair. He befriends the family of an Oglala Sioux named “One Star.” Only now does Dietz start to claim Native American ancestry, refashioning his backstory to include a boyhood on the Oglala/Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and assuming the nickname “Lone Star.”

1907: September: The 23-year-old Dietz enrolls at the Carlisle [Pa.] Indian School. He is among the players made famous on a team coached by Glenn “Pop” Warner, especially during a phenomenal 1911 season in which the Indians’ Jim Thorpe runs all over people.

1915: Dietz leaves his assistant’s job under Warner to coach (today’s) Washington State through a season that includes a New Years Day Rose Bowl victory.

1918: Dietz files for a draft exemption as a noncitizen Indian. (Until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, Native Americans couldn’t be drafted.) Washington State lets Coach Dietz go before the season when Spokane’s draft board questions his ancestry.

1919: February 1: Dietz is indicted for being a “slacker” (draft dodger). In consequent federal interviews, Dietz admits that no one at Pine Ridge is his biological mother.
   June: At trial, Dietz’s real mom recalls giving birth to a stillborn baby on Dietz’s birthday in 1884. She says her husband then confessed to an affair with an Indian woman, so he took a few days to go fetch the infant product of that relationship, and the couple raised him up as their own. This account conflicts with those of two witnesses, neighbors who visited the Dietz home in the days immediately after the delivery. The trial ends with a hung jury.

1920: January 20: Having been re-indicted and without money to fund a second defense, Dietz pleads guilty to filing a false declaration and gets 30 days in the joint [note 1, below].

1932: July 9: A group led by George Preston Marshall, heir to a D.C. laundry chain, gets a charter for an NFL team to play at Boston’s National League baseball park, Braves Field ... so the footballers are also “Boston Braves.” Their coach is Lud Wray.

1933: Wray leaves to run Philadelphia’s new Eagles and Marshall is already moving his year-old franchise one mile to Fenway Park. Certainly “Braves” would be unwelcome in the American League park, and—as I argue in Naming Rites—it’s extremely unlikely Marshall wouldn’t have considered “Red Sox” as a name. (That year’s NFL already had “football” New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, Pittsburg Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago Bears named after the hardballing Cubs.) Instead, Marshall’s boys are “Redskins,” which maintains the Indian-head emblem of the ’32 Braves while taking the Red- prefix from the Sox, but Dietz’s Indian background will be cited in later years as the major inspiration.
   July 6: Marshall tells the Associated Press that “confusion has been caused by our football team wearing the same name as the [baseball] club. ... The fact that we have in our head coach, Lone Star Dietz, an Indian, together with several Indian players, has not, as may be suspected, inspired me to select the name Red Skins” [note 2]. But he shifts his enthusiasm when he talks to author Damon Runyon two weeks later (July 18): “Besides my coach [Dietz], I’ve got half a dozen Indian players signed up, and I’m going to have them wearing Indian war bonnets, and blankets, and everything.”

1937: The Boston Redskins have been winning, but the fans haven’t turned out, so Marshall takes them to his hometown as “Washington Redskins.”

1959: A line in what had been Washington’s fight song since 1933—“Hail to the Redskins” —is changed from “Hail to Old D.C.” to “Hail to Old Dixie.” (The lyrics will change back in 1961.)

1960: The expansion Dallas Cowboys are admitted to the NFL. Marshall has been blocking the Cowboys’ because (even in 1960) Washington is the southernmost team in the NFL, as indicated by the “Dixie” lyric (above). In fact, the Cowboys’ management had capitalized on some bad blood between Marshall and his bandleader to sneakily buy the rights to “Hail to the Redskins” ... which were traded back to Marshall as part of the negotiations.

1962: The Redskins pick first in the draft. The obvious choice is Ernie Davis out of Syracuse, the first African-American Heisman winner. Marshall has famously maintained, “We’ll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites,” but J.F.K.’s Interior Secretary Stewart Udall tells Marshall, “If you do not hire a black player, you will not be able to” keep the lease on the year-old Federally-owned bowl (now R.F.K. Stadium). Marshall drafts Davis but immediately trades him for another great (black) player, Bobby Mitchell.

1969: August 9: Marshall dies. In his will he directs big bucks to start children’s charities,
taking pains to state
that none shall go “for any purpose which supports or employs the principle of racial integration in any form.”

1972: The University of Utah replaces Runnin’ Redskins with Runnin’ Utes.

1988: January 23: This defense appears in the Pittsburgh Press (p. C2): “Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke said, “There’s not a single, solitary jot, tittle, whit chance in the world” that the Redskins will adopt a new nickname.””

1991: October 20: Writing in Sports Illustrated, Rick Reilly argues against Indian themes in sports in his column, “Let’s Bust Those Chops: Native Americans have every reason to object to the way they’re caricatured by teams.”

1992: In Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo, the plaintiffs ask the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the “Redskins” trademark. The decision is not immediate.

1995: October: A discussion of Indian themes for sports teams goes national when the Cleveland Indians face the Atlanta Braves in the World Series. The former display one of the most clearly racist mascots in sports (the daffy Chief Wahoo) while fans of the latter practice the Tomahawk chop, a robotic hacking that some Native Americans find mocking.

1997: Miami University—“Miami of Ohio”—drops its Redskins for RedHawks.

1998: Southern Nazarene University (Bethany, Okla.) trades the last Redskins in college sports for a Crimson Storm.

1999: April 2: The plaintiffs in Harjo win their 1992 case (above), as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancels the Redskins’ “Redskins” trademark. The team gets to use their familiar imagery during the appeals process.
   May: Maryland native and life-long ’Skins fan Dan Snyder uses some of his marketing fortune to buy the Washington Redskins.

2004: September 24: The Annenberg Public Policy Center releases the results of a poll of 768 respondents who self-identify as Amerindians. They are asked: “As a Native American, do you find [“Washington Redskins”] offensive or doesn’t it bother you?” I can't figure out what a yes or no response to that question would even mean, but Annenberg finds that 90 percent of respondents are “not bothered” by the nickname while 9 percent find it offensive. Redskins defenders spend the next decade pointing to Annenberg’s findings while those opposed say the results are to be doubted by virtue of the question’s not-quite-but-maybe-double-negative construction. They also say that many Indian reservations (from which you’d expect the most opposition) don’t have land lines, and this is a land line poll.

2005: Ives Goddard, an Algonquian language expert at the Smithsonian, writes the report “I am a Red-skin: The Adoption of a Native American Expression (1769-1826)” ... in which he gives somewhat benign origins for redskin and concludes that “The descent of [redskin] into obloquy is a phenomenon of more recent times” (p. 16). But Goddard recognizes that descent, and addresses anti-Redskin sentiments by telling the Washington Post, “[Y]ou could believe everything in my article” and still oppose the current public usage of redskin [note 3].

2009: The Harjo decision (1999) is reversed on a technicality because the complaint was filed decades after the eighteenth birthday(s) of the plaintiff(s), leaving the court to infer that injury and insult could not have been all that dramatic. The Redskins therefore regain their trademark protection.

2011: April 11: The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples asks the Washington Redskins to consider that “the term ‘redskins’ represents [...] the long history of mistreatment of Native American people in the United States.”

2013: February 7: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian hosts a symposium called “Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports.” The Redskins decline the invitation, but the event draws national attention.
   May 10: Team owner Dan Snyder tells USA Today, “We'll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps” (which echoes Jack Kent Cooke’s 1988 comments).
   June 24: The polling group Rasmussen Reports releases the response to this straight-ahead question from 1,000 adult respondents: “Should the Washington Redskins change their name?” Rasmussen says 60 percent of respondents say no, 26 percent say yes, 14 percent abstain.
   July 31: TMZ Sports posts a video from a June 9 concert in Philadelphia in which Eagles receiver Riley Cooper challenges black security guards after being denied backstage access: “I will jump that fence and fight every nigger here, bro’.” He is fined by the team, but those who consider “Redskins” a racial slur hiding in plain sight see a double-standard.
   September 5: The Oneida Nation (one of five nations of the Iroquois Confederacy) unleashes www.changethemascot.org to fight the Indian imagery in sports, especially those they call the “Washington NFL team.” The org intends to target the Redskins in high-profile radio and television advertisements.
   September 18: In an ESPN column (“Have the people spoken?”), sportswriter Rick Reilly supports Indian-themed teams, saying in part: “[W]hen media stars like USA Today’s Christine Brennan, a white woman from Ohio, and Peter King, a white man from Massachusetts, have jumped on a people’s cause, there’s no going back.” Many will put this piece next to the above (1991) column by white, male, media star Reilly for comparison. In the newer piece Riley says his father-in-law Bob Burns, a Black Feet Elder, has no problem with names like “Redskins,” but Burns says he was misquoted (to say the least) and that he has all kinds of problems with such imagery in sports.
   October 5: With multiple international crises to choose from, an Associated Press reporter solicits Barack Obama’s take on the growing “Redskins” controversy. The president responds: “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team—even if it had a storied history—that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”
   October 9: Dan Snyder’s lawyer addresses Snyder's “NEVER” comment from May: “I don’t think saying ‘all caps, never’ is the right tone. ... I think saying ‘We care about people’s feelings, we’re respectful when anyone is offended, but we have this ... name that we love.’”
   November 5: The Washington D.C. [City] Council calls the “Redskins” nickname “racist and derogatory.”
   ongoing: The list of reporters who say they’ll make a determined effort to limit their use of “Redskin” grows to include Peter King (Sports Illustrated’s MMQB blog), Christine Brennan (USA Today), and Sally Jenkins (Washington Post). Most say they’ll print “Redskins” when necessary or in quotations but will otherwise get by with (something like) “Washington.” Less reserved opposition comes from Bob Costas (NBC), Keith Olbermann (ESPN), Frank Deford (NPR), and Dave Zirin (The Nation).

2014: March 24: Snyder announces a new charity called the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.
   April 25: TMZ posts an audio recording of an April 9 conversation between San Diego Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his mistress. In it, Sterling says some way uncool stuff about African-Americans and is (eventually) banned for life from the NBA.
   May 3: In a press release, the Redskins run out one Stephen “Chief” Dodson, who they call a “full-blooded American Inuit chief.” The chief jus’ loves the “Redskins” name.
   May 21: In an open letter to NFL commish Roger Goodell, 50 U.S. Senators (48 Democrats, 2 Independents) cite the NBA’s apt punishment of Sterling’s racist language when calling on the NFL to “endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team.”
   June 5: Writing back to the Senate, Goodell cites Dodson as evidence of how there’s no problem with the name among reasonable Amerindians, but members of Dodson’s family almost immediately point out that “Chief” is just a nickname and he’s only one-quarter Aleut (not Inuit, not-full-blooded). Dodson had talked publicly about going to pow-wows on the reservations, but Alaskan native peoples have neither pow-wows nor reservations (nor do they much use the word chief). According to Deadspin’s Dave McKenna: “When I told him that various groups representing Inuits and Aleuts in Alaska question the description of him as a “full-blooded Inuit Chief originally of Aleutian tribes,” Dodson said, “I don’t get into organizational things like that. We are a people and that’s what we need to focus on, instead of dealing with non-profits run by Mexicans.””
   Indeed.
   June 9: A one-minute ad (cut from a two-minute version) from Change the Mascot airs in seven large media markets during halftime of NBA Finals game 3. “Proud to Be” was produced by the National Congress of American Indians and sponsored by the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation north of San Francisco Bay. The last line reads, “Native Americans call themselves many things. The one thing they don’t ...” then there’s a silent close-up of a Redskins helmet.
   June 18: The team’s “Redskins” trademark is canceled by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because derogatory terms don’t enjoy such protections (Pro-Football, Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse, et al.). That alone can’t force the team to pick a new name, but—assuming the ruling stands after the lengthy appeals process—anyone would be able to stamp “Redskins” on saleable jackets and caps. Even if they haven’t said so, this potentially represents plenty of lost dollars to the league’s other revenue-sharing owners. A team lawyer says, “We’ve been down this road already,” implying that the decision will be overturned on appeal, like in 1999. But it’s not at all the same road; the technicality that changed the first case—that the plaintiffs were too old to protest the decades-old trademark—had been anticipated by new and improved Native American plaintiffs ranging in age from 18 to 24.
   June 24: The Redskin cheerleaders’ Instagram feed releases a photo showing 50 years of uniforms worn by “Redskinettes” (a term that had lost its trademark protection the week before). Naturally, over-sexualized Indian garb is in the mix (think, “sexy Indian costume,” number 3, here), and people start marveling at how Internet-inept the front office is, as exhibited by this USA Today headline: “Will someone tell the Redskins to take a break from social media?” (The way the ’Skinettes continue to overtly peddle their sexuality is best observed in the pictorial example of “intelligent” here.)

The “evolution” of cheerleading uniforms includes that of the original 1962 Redskinettes (far left), although this particular lady would have stuck out among the first batch of Marshall’s unsurprisingly all-white cheerleaders. (Image from the official Instagram account of the Redskins cheerleaders.).

   June 30: Somebody registers the URL www.redskinsfacts.com. The Redskins seem surprised and delighted by this online “grass roots” campaign by fans and former players that support the team identity. Never mind that it was secretly run by the team’s high-powered PR firm.
   July 31: Glenn Kessler checks the “facts” at redskinsfacts for the Washington Post and gives the website three out of four Pinocchios (significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions).
   July 16: The Fort Yuma Kwatsan Tribe (of the Colorado River in California and Arizona) rejects a virtual blank check (up to $250,000) from the Original Americans Foundation to build a skate park (in the Redskins’ colors), calling it a bribe. Other tribes that take money from the OAF usually make a point to say they have no stake in the team-name controversy.
   summer: Ahead of the ’14 season, the NFL is plagued by superstars caught up in domestic abuse scandals. Many say the NFL now has bigger problems than Washington’s nickname, but it seems it will be easy for opponents to roll such cases (along with attention paid to the league’s history of ignoring [even covering up] the dangers of contact-induced concussions and a January lawsuit from allegedly underpaid cheerleaders) into an ongoing culture-of-disrespect narrative as pertains to the NFL.
   September 2: Legal activist John Banzhaf III files a petition with the Federal Communications Commission to yank the license of D.C. radio station WWXX-FM for its use of the word “Redskins.” Success seems unlikely to many legal scholars, and anyone who watches the premiere of Ken Burns’s 600-hour PBS series The Roosevelts this same month hears the N-word (at least) three times, all to accurately convey the sentiments of the person(s) quoted (a courtesy I extended to Riley Cooper above). Until the FCCers ban the N-word, I wouldn’t worry too much about the R-word. UPDATE: The FCC rejected Banzhaf’s petition in December 2014.
   September 11: Goodell tells a D.C. radio station (106.7 The Fan), “If one person is offended, we have to listen.” A few chin-strokers suggest that Goodell’s diminishing enthusiasm owes to the Redskins’ vetting process (or lack thereof) for “Chief” Dodson (above).
   September 24, 2014: In the season premiere of Comedy Central’s South Park (“Go Fund Yourself”), a quartet of young ne’er-do-wells realize that June’s cancellation of the “Washington Redskins” trademark means they can create their own so-named Kickstarter campaign. When Snyder and Co. oppose the use of the name, Mr. Cartman protests: “Digging in our heels and pissing on public opinion is what the Washington Redskins are all about!”
   November 27: In an attempt to overload the Pentagon’s Irony Detector, the official twitter feed for Washington’s NFL team wishes a “Happy Thanksgiving from the Redskins,” seemingly unaware that Turkey Day has been something of a National Day of Mourning among Amerindians for decades.

For purposes of irony, don’t change a thing. (Image from the Redskins’ twitter page.)

   ongoing: Over the course of the year, an about-face by the Redskins has them less and less inclined to cite “Lone Star” Dietz by name as the inspiration, instead vaguely pointing to “four players and our Head Coach” on the ’33 team who were Native Americans. (This reminds one of the way Cleveland’s baseballers have backed off the “Sockalexis myth,” the idea born in the 1968 media guide that the Indians were named in 1915 to honor one [ultimately] disappointing prospect, Penobscot Indian Louis Sockalexis.)

2015: January 19: The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes the hiring of minority talent by NFL staffs, picks the Martin Luther King holiday to voice opposition to the team name after failing to engage the league or team in a dialog with Native Americans.
   March 5: The American Civil Liberties Union files an amicus brief on behalf of the Redskins, saying: (a) “The ACLU has joined calls for the team to change the name and to stop using a word that perpetuates racism against Native Americans”; (b) The court should uphold the Redskins’ right to express speech (in this case through trademarks) even if it is “immoral, scandalous, or disparaging to any persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols.”
   June 2: The Oneida Nation, a major force behind www.changethemascot.org, opens the Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango, New York. Chittenango native L. Frank Baum published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, and the casino is among several Oz-themed attractions in town. But that puts the Oneidas on the bandwagon for a beloved children’s author who in 1891 advocated for a genocide against the Sioux with the syntax “wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth ... [or] ... expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins [sic!] as those have been in the past.” To answer that, Oneida elder Ray Halbritter (a driving force behind changethemascot.org) said “I think we can separate and try to extract the good and focus on the good” ... which is eerily parallel to the cherry-picked defense that those claiming to honor Amerindians through sports mascots usually employ.
   July 8: U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee upholds the June 2014 decision in Blackhorse to cancel the team’s trademark registration. The next destination in the appeals process would be the U.S. Supreme Court. Pursuing the matter theretoward would risk a very public embarrassment for the team.
   August 17: Team GM Bruce Allen says the Redskins will need new digs when the lease at their 1997-built Maryland stadium expires after the 2026 season. When asked if the team would consider changing the nickname as part of a deal to return to D.C., Allen says: “No.”
   August 5: The Cheyenne River Sioux council rejects $25,000 from the Redskins’ Original Americans Foundation and orders tribal members to “cease all unsanctioned communication with the Washington Redskins.”
   September 1: In a letter, the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas opts out of its $200,000 partnership with the Original Americans Foundation, saying “the resources ... come with the expectation that we will support the racial slur that continues to promote your associated professional football team’s name.”
   September 30: Ahead of the 4 October Redskins vs. Eagles match-up, Matt Lombardo of NJ.com posts via twitter the cover for Sunday's media guide for “Philadelphia vs. Washington,” whereas the corresponding programs for bookending games describe “Eagles vs. Falcons” and “Eagles vs. Jets.”
   September 21: The premiere episode for the FOX TV show Minority Report is set the Washington D.C. of 2065, whereat NFLers have been renamed “Washington Red Clouds” after Lakota war chief Red Cloud. In fact, “Red Clouds” had already been suggested as an alternate name by Bob Drury and Thomas Clavin in a 2013 Washington Post opinion piece, which likely had something to do with the release days later of their co-written Red Cloud biography.
   October 11: Gov. Jerry Brown signs the California Racial Mascots Act, making it unlawful for public school teams to be called Redskins, effective 1 January 2017. Although Washington’s Redskins don’t play a Golden State team in 2015, the subject will undoubtedly arise on some future visit to California.
   November 5: President Obama hosts the seventh annual White House Tribal Nations Conference. Sportswear giant Adidas sends representatives to the conference to say they'll provide design services and other assistance so schools can transition away from Indian names and mascots without breaking the bank ... although the strings attached were plenty favorable toward Adidas (as discovered by these Redskins and these Reds). Obama says he “[doesn’t] know if Adidas made the same offer to a certain NFL team here in Washington ... But they might want to think about that.” Silently complicating the issue is star Redskin quarterback Robert Griffin III; he’s among Adidas’ highest profile endorsers.
   November 6: Reacting to the June cancellation of their trademarks, the team files a brief in federal court that says “no registration has ever been retroactively cancelled for being disparaging. The Redskins are the first and only.” Then the brief lists other seemingly offensive trademarks and asks how “Redskins” is any different. Let’s be clear here; the team wants to know why its brand of family fun is being treated any differently than trademarks for (sorry ’bout this) Baked By a Negro (cookies), Crippled Old Biker Bastards (online motorcycle community), or Dumb Blonde (beer). (For others—and they do get worse—see the brief itself, p. 24.) It’s a fair legal point, though. On the same day, the ACLU of Virginia files an amicus brief on behalf of the Redskins, including the comment, “If a judgment is to be made regarding the suitability or sensitivity of particular trademark, it should be made by the marketplace itself.” The same doc contains this reminder: “The ACLU has joined calls for the team to change its name and to stop using a word that demeans the dignity of Native Americans.”
   December 22: A federal appeals court rules 10-2 in favor of a band called the Slants, saying the federal statute at the center of such litigation—section 2(a) of the 1946 Lanham Act—violates the free-speech provisions of the First Amendment and should not have been used to deny trademark protection for their name. The Slants ironically and intentionally try to pridefully reclaim the stereotype of slanty eyed Asians. (More on this seemingly unrelated development in a minute.)

2016: February 24: As reported by ESPN, two members of Britain’s Labour Party co-authored a February 2 letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the Redskins v. Cincinnati Bengals game at London’s Wembley Stadium scheduled for October 30. The ministers want the team to either change its name or “send a different team to our country to represent the sport, one that does not promote a racial slur ... or directly [contravene] the values that many in Britain have worked so hard to instill.”
   April 15: In the popular web TV series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a major character gets a vision to cultivate social connections to the Snyder family and take down the team name from within ... a plotline continued into season 3 (2017).
   April 25: The Redskins ask the Supreme Court to review their appeal of July’s trademark cancellation, but only if it’s considered alongside the aforementioned Slants case. Keep in mind that according to the Slants’ application for appeal, their name should be OK because of precedents set by such approved trademarks as (sorry again) “Capitalism Sucks Donkey Balls” (U.S. reg. no. 4,744,351), “Take Yo Panties Off” (4,824,028), or “Ganja University” (4,070,160). The team's argument, by its own attachment to the case, is therefore that “Redskins” is not worse than “Donkey Balls.” Few doubt, though, that a future victory would have the Redskins insisting that the Feds have looked into the name and decided there’s nothing offensive about it ... or “donkey balls.”
   20 June: The Redskins file an amicus brief on behalf of the Slants that says the case should be considered settled by the December appeals court ruling.
   November 5: On this weekend before a presidential election, the conservative super PAC Rebuilding America Now releases a video ad that includes pieces of a July 2014 interview with Fusion TV. The excerpt includes Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton calling “Redskins” insensitive and saying “there is no reason for it to continue as the name of a team in our nation's capital.” The ad's concluding statement is: “Hillary's priorities are not your priorities.” (For the record, GOP nominee and Twitter-crazy name-caller Donald J. Trump has disagreed, telling the New York Times “I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name.”)

2017: January 18: The U.S. Supreme Court hears the Slants’ case with the Redskins paying close attention. A summer decision is expected.
   June 19: The Supreme Court rules in favor of the Slants, striking down that portion of trademark law that bars protection for disparaging trademarks. Justice Samuel Alito makes clear in his written opinion that the First Amendment does in fact protect “speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground.” Redskins fans and alums of Ganja U. beam with pride.

Future: If Washington’s “Redskins” name survives, it will be the first I’ve seen to have done so over the dozen years I’ve been tracking team name and mascot changes. And I’ve never seen the heat come from virtually every Indian rights organization, the U.S. Senate (half thereof), tons of national media outlets and sports writers, British Parliamentarians, and the freakin’ United Nations.

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Click here to return to the Naming Rites Blog table of contents. Glenn Arthur Pierce is the author of Naming Rites: A Biographical History of North American Team Names, now available at Amazon.com. (Click “Read Excerpt” here.)
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Notes:
1. For questions about Dietz’s ethnicity in his own day, see “Famed Gridiron Star Indicted as Slacker,” Idaho Statesman (1 Feb. 1919), reproduced by Washington State U. Libraries at the link provided. For other biographical information see: (a.) Richard Lelby, “The legend of Lone Star Dietz: Redskins namesake, coach—and possible impostor?” Washington Post (6 Nov. 2013), http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifesty... (accessed 3 Nov. 2014): (b.) Linda M. Waggoner, “On Trial: The Washington R*skins’ Wily Mascot: Coach William “Lone Star” Dietz, Montana: The Magazine of Western History: 24-47; (c.) Tom Benjey, Keep A-Goin’ : The Life of Lone Star Dietz (Carlisle, Pa.: Tuxedo Press, 2006).

2. This was uncovered by Indian rights attorney Jesse Witten and reported by Robert McCartney, “1933 news article refutes cherished tale that Redskins were named to honor Indian coach,” Washington Post, 28 May 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/1... (accessed 3 Nov. 2014).

3. Goddard has seen this before. Persistent anti-Redskin activist Suzan Harjo appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1992 to lay out a similar case that the word squaw is from and Iroquois word for vagina, but Goddard says it’s more likely from an Algonquian word for a young woman.

© Glenn Arthur Pierce, 2015, 2016, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Glenn Arthur Pierce and the book Naming Rites with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Updates: 25 February 2016 (protestations from British Parliamentarians); 18 January 2017 (Slants trademark case).

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Naming Rites: A Team Name and Mascot Blog

Glenn Arthur Pierce
Glenn Arthur Pierce is the author Naming Rites: A Biographical History of North American Team Names. This companion blog continues to track trends and controversies pertaining to team names past and p ...more
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