The controversy over the Washington Redskins' name has been brewing for some time. A major confrontation happened last fall in Minneapolis when a large group of Native American demonstrators gathered to protest the team's name and mascot near a stadium where Washington was playing Minnesota.
At its core, the argument against the team's name and mascot asserts that the use of it is racist and that the NFL should change it. Some proponents of the brand - including the team's owner, Dan Snyder - insist that it is a term of "honor."
According to CNN, Snyder has stated that he will "never" change the team name, telling USA Today that, although he "respect(s) the feelings of those who are offended by the team name," the name holds the "memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come."
Most recently, however, the National Congress of Americans released the commercial you're about to see. Its power lies in its simplicity.
Despite what some might think, the argument isn't about political correctness: It's about the right of a group to preserve and defend its cultural identity. Some might argue that Washington's mascot and name is no different than say, the Minnesota Vikings.
The problem there is that "Viking" is a product of self-identification and not a racial epithet.
It might be arguable that the mascot is intended to pay honor to Native American courage, but the name "Redskins" belies any dignity that its proponents assert is conveyed in their imagery. It relies on the image of the Native American as "noble savage" and conveniently ignores the fact that this narrative and the images that accompanied it emerged from the context of western expansion and genocide.
This isn't about victimhood. It's about people who want to be treated like people and not "mascots." To say that they're being oversensitive is a bit like telling them, "we're going to call you any goddamn thing we want: We will define what you are, we will tell you what honor is to you." That at least would be more honest than saying that you respect someone's feelings while continuing to trample on them.
Ask yourself this:
If Washington had a black mascot and called themselves the "N-words," would that be okay?