Poll finds much support for Redskins name

WASHINGTON – It’s been a rough offseason for the Washington Redskins, and not just because of the knee injury to star quarterback Robert Griffin III.

The team’s nickname has faced a new barrage of criticism for being offensive to Native Americans. Local leaders and pundits have called for a name change. Opponents have launched a legal challenge intended to deny the team federal trademark protection. A bill introduced in Congress in March would do the same, though it appears unlikely to pass.

But a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows that nationally, “Redskins’’ still enjoys widespread support. Nearly four in five Americans don’t think the team should change its name, the survey found. Only 11 percent think it should be changed, while 8 percent weren’t sure and 2 percent didn’t answer.

Although 79 percent favor keeping the name, that does represent a 10 percentage point drop from the last national poll on the subject, conducted in 1992 by The Washington Post and ABC News just before the team won its most recent Super Bowl. Then, 89 percent said the name should not be changed, and 7 percent said it should.

The AP-GfK poll was conducted from April 11-15. It included interviews with 1,004 adults on both land lines and cellphones. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Several poll respondents told The AP that they did not consider the name offensive and cited tradition in arguing that it shouldn’t change.

“That’s who they’ve been forever. That’s who they’re known as,” said Sarah Lee, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mom from Osceola, Ind. “I think we as a people make race out to be a bigger issue than it is.”

But those who think the name should be changed say the word is obviously derogatory.

“With everything that Native Americans have gone through in this country, to have a sports team named the Redskins _ come on, now. It’s bad,” said Pamela Rogal, 56, a writer from Boston. “Much farther down the road, we’re going to look back on this and say, ‘Are you serious? Did they really call them the Washington Redskins?’ It’s a no-brainer.”

Among football fans, 11 percent said the name should be changed — the same as among non-fans. Among nonwhite football fans, 18 percent said it should change, about double the percentage of white football fans who oppose the name.

A Redskins spokesman declined to comment on the poll’s findings or to make team executives available for interviews.

In Washington, debate over the name has increased in recent months. In February, the National Museum of the American Indian held a daylong symposium on the use of Indian mascots by sports teams. Museum Director Kevin Gover, of the Pawnee Nation, said the word “redskin’’ was “the equivalent of the n-word.”

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray, a Democrat, suggested that the team would have to consider changing the name if it wanted to play its home games in the city again. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the district in Congress, said she’s a fan of the team but avoids saying “Redskins.” Just this week, a D.C. Council member introduced a resolution calling for a name change, and it appears to have enough support to pass, although the council has no power over the team.

“We need to get rid of it,” said longtime local news anchor Jim Vance in a commentary that aired in February. Vance, of WRC-TV, revealed that he has avoided using the name on the air for the past few years.

In March, a three-judge panel heard arguments from a group of five Native American petitioners that the team shouldn’t have federal trademark protection, which could force owner Daniel Snyder into a change by weakening him financially. A decision isn’t expected for up to a year, and the Redskins are sure to appeal if it doesn’t go their way. A similar case, ultimately won by the team, was filed in 1992 and needed 17 years to go through the legal system before the Supreme Court declined to intervene.

Susan Shown Harjo, a plaintiff in that case, said the poll results were “irrelevant” because popular opinion shouldn’t decide the issue.

“This is a really good example of why you never put racism up to a popular vote, because racism will win every time,” she said. “It’s not up to the offending class to say what offends the offended.”

“If we’re going to say that ‘Redskins’ is an offensive term, like the n-word or something like that, I haven’t heard that,” said David Black, 38, a football fan from Edmond, Okla., who doesn’t think a change is necessary.

 

Share This Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>