Sarah Blugis: The injustices of a football mascot

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

I was raised as a Dallas Cowboys fan and I’ve always considered it “my team,” especially as it took on the rival Washington Redskins.

I still watch the Cowboys on Sundays, but as a District resident, I’ve found myself developing an affinity for our local team, just as I’ve become passionate about other parts of our city.

Students enjoy bragging rights by going to school in the nation’s capital. But the name of our National Football League team is not something to boast about.

The country’s tribal leaders came to D.C. last week to turn up the heat on President Barack Obama and Congress to force the team to change its name. Now, it’s time for students need to wake up.

It’s frustrating – in 2013 – that we can’t all agree that the word “redskins” is insensitive. Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Congress of American Indians, explained that the term refers to the “red skin” that bounty hunters collected in order to receive payment for murdering Native Americans. Even if the football’s owners and fans may mean it that way, the mascot doesn’t honor Native Americans’ strength and courage. It’s a reminder of their ancestors’ gruesome past.

Simply put, the name is racist.

Until the team changes its name, students here should not tolerate going to football games to cheer on a team called the “Washington Redskins.”

But overall, the student body doesn’t seem particularly concerned – and I can’t help but wonder why. After all, if we’re going to boast about how great our city is, we can’t sit idly by when we see injustice. We can’t simultaneously trumpet the city’s strengths while blindly ignoring its weaknesses.

A Pew Poll from the spring showed that only 11 percent of Americans thought the name should be changed. This isn’t surprising: Nobody likes change, especially when it comes to something as emotionally charged as sports. But as students – let alone those in a city where bigotry persists in our football team’s name – we have a responsibility to make decisions based on logic, not emotions.

Last month, the president of GW’s Native American Student Association weighed in, arguing that the University must take a stand against this racism.

But realistically speaking, the administration may not have the incentive to weigh in. Students should rely on themselves to stir change.

I’ve spoken with both the College Republicans and the College Democrats, neither of which have officially taken a public position on this controversy. GW’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank, advocates a name change but has not actively participated or lobbied.

GW’s Progressive Student Union, refreshingly, has taken a stand. They have been working with a local group called Change the Name Now by participating in street-corner town halls, for example.

“We don’t have any plans of our own yet,” PSU officer Sam Nelson told me. “If we were approached by other groups on campus, we would participate. Right now it’s a matter of organizational capacity.”

It’s a shame that one student organization feels like they can’t fight for a noble issue because they can’t find enough people who care.

It’s safe to say that GW students feel protective of their city — sometimes even more so than the University itself. That’s reasonable, given that many of us hope to extend our time in D.C. long after graduation.

It’s important for us to help control the message that the District is sending in every way that we can. Or else we’re just being hypocritical.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

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