As Dan Snyder completes a victory lap or two regarding a Washington Post poll that finds 90 percent of 504 Native American adults who responded aren’t “bothered” by the term “Redskins,” the group that has been pressuring Snyder to ditch the team name is unfazed by the outcome.
“The results of this poll confirm a reality that is encouraging but hardly surprising: Native Americans are resilient and have not allowed the NFL’s decades-long denigration of us to define our own self-image,” said National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata and Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter in a statement issued by the Change the Mascot campaign. “However, that proud resilience does not give the NFL a license to continue marketing, promoting, and profiting off of a dictionary-defined racial slur — one that tells people outside of our community to view us as mascots.
“Social science research and first-hand experience has told us that this kind of denigration has both visible and unseen consequences for Native Americans in this country. This is especially the case for children, who were not polled and who are in a particularly vulnerable position to be bullied by the NFL. It is the 21st century — it is long overdue for Native Americans to be treated not as mascots or targets of slurs, but instead as equals.”
Frankly, the poll question that has generated the most publicity seems flawed and asymmetrical (regardless of whether the words were chosen to track the language of past polls on the topic). Specifically, the 504 Native American adults were asked, “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?”
It’s possible to regard a term as objectively offensive but not subjectively be bothered by it. Thus, it would have made more sense to ask two separate questions: (1) do you find it offensive, yes or no?; (2) does it personally bother you, yes or no?
All we know for now is that, of 504 Native American adults surveyed, nine percent believe that the term is offensive and 90 percent aren’t personally bothered by the term. Even without more clarify, the percentage of Native American adults offended by the term shouldn’t be ignored, especially since none of the other 31 NFL franchises carry a name that anyone could fairly deem offensive.
Meanwhile, the National Congress of American Indians continues to strongly oppose the term. So maybe the next Washington Post poll question should be whether 90 percent of a randomly-selected group of 504 Native American adults trumps the collective judgment and wisdom of “the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities.”