The Washington Post poll that supporters of the local NFL team’s name believed would end the debate has potentially reinvigorated it — along with sparking a new debate over whether there should even be a debate about the propriety of the name.
On Friday, a group of Native American leaders and activists (i.e., not “white liberal journalists”) held a conference call aimed at further criticizing the poll.
Via the Associated Press, California State San Bernardino sociology professor James Fenelon called the poll “immoral.” He also echoed concerns that the poll was not representative of Native American communities. Likewise, Amanda Blackhorse, who serves as the lead plaintiff in the case attacking the team’s federal trademark protection, called the poll “misguided,” adding that it won’t diminish attacks against the name.
“This issue is not about polling,” National Congress of American Indians executive director Jackie Pata added. “This issue is about human rights.”
Some would say that these voices carry much more weight that 450 unverified self-identifying Native American adults who said in response to a series of questions about the name that the name doesn’t bother them. Moving forward, those voices need to find ways to get their message across in an effective and meaningful way.
As worthy as the cause may be, the opposition to the name has been at times disorganized, ebbing and flowing and all too often operating on a reactive instead of proactive basis. The movement would benefit greatly from a skilled and experienced P.R. professional who would launch a sustained assault on the name featuring, for example, conference calls occurring at a time other than the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. No matter how compelling the quotes, the messages sent Friday will rarely register on the national radar screen.
To launch the kind of P.R. push needed to impose pressure not on the team or the league but their sponsors, the movement first needs money. Stockpile enough of it through donations from those who believe that the name should go, and the Native American groups opposed to the name will have the foundation for devising ways to persuade Native Americans who oppose the name and non-Natives who agree with them to take the case to those truly in a position to compel a change.