Opinion: Inside the NFL's playbook for defending a racist mascot

A protest against the Washington NFL team's racist mascot during Superbowl weekend in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by ChrisPetersonTCS / Twitter

Psychologist Michael Friedman takes apart the NFL's defense of the Washington team's racist mascot:
1. Reframe a dictionary- and government-defined racial slur as a term of "honor." In his letter to fans, Dan Snyder claims that the "R-word" is a "badge of honor." NFL spokesperson Adolpho Birch further stated, "It's not a slur." In actuality, the Washington football team's name is defined as a racial slur in almost every modern dictionary. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team's trademark because the term was found to be "disparaging."

2. Disregard protests of Native Americans and civil rights leaders. Several major American Indian organizations including the National Congress for the American Indian (NCAI), National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) and Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) have issued public statements condemning the use of the "R-word." In addition to the Fritz Pollard Alliance, major civil rights groups such as the NAACP, Leadership Conference for Human and Civil Rights, The National Council of La Raza and the Anti-Defamation League have all condemned the practice of using this slur. Recently, DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of the NFL Player's association, said that the Washington team name conveyed "racial insensitivity."

NCAI: Take It Away
3. Ignore science showing harmful effects of racism against American Indians. Professional organizations, such as the American Psychological Association, American Sociological Association and American Counseling Association, have issued statements that the use of "Native" team names and imagery is detrimental to children's mental health and development. Experimental laboratory studies demonstrate causal effects that the presence of American Indian sports team logos results directly in lower self-esteem and lower mood among American Indian youth; longitudinal studies show that discrimination predicts increased depression and substance abuse in American Indian youth over time.

4. "Don't we have more important things to worry about?" Defenders of the Washington team name often dismiss opposition to the team name as an example of political correctness gone awry. Further, those supporting the team often presents a false dichotomy whereby American Indians should be forced to tolerate racial slurs because they suffer from other "more pressing" issues such as poverty. In response to a letter from American Indian U.S. Congressman Tom Cole urging the NFL to support a name change for the Washington team, team representative Tony Wyllie responded by saying, "Don't they have more important issues to worry about?"

Get the Story:
Michael Friedman: The NFL 'Playbook' for Defending Racism Against American Indians (The Huffington Post 1/29)

Also Today:
Redskins spent $180,000 lobbying to keep name, Patriots all in for Democrats (The Washington Examiner 2/1)

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