Read between the Lines: Team Names in Professional Leagues

There is more to a team name than we actually think. Team’s like the Atlanta Braves, Florida State Seminoles, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks and  the Washington Redskins have rich and storied histories within their respective leagues. Each team name playing an important role in that regions culture and history as well. These team names were chosen to be as Dan Snyder says “a badge of honour”.

Currently the Washington Redskins are under fire from many political and human rights groups because of the name “Redskins”. If you didn’t know, a Redskin is known to be a derogatory term used against Native Americans.

CTV recently published two articles depicting the events surrounding the team and how people are starting to react to the term “Redskin”. It has even gone as far as Capitol Hill calling for a “name change”. Although this debate has been around for decades it has been seen recently within the media that the debate is far from over.

A Native American activist Suzan Shown Harjo was quoted saying that the Washington Redskins have a “time-dishonoured history of putting up pseudo-Indians as part of their promotion”. Even President Obama said he’d change the name if he was making the shots.

But there are Native American’s in the community who think the latter and agree with the Redskins and Mr. Snyder. Tommie Yazzie who is a superintendent of the Red Messa school district couldn’t care less. “We just don’t think that (name) is an issue”. “There are more important things like busing our kids to school, the water settlement, the land quality, the air that surrounds us. Those are issues we can take sides on”.

“Society, they think it’s more derogatory because of the recent discussions”.

Eunice Davidson also adds that the name “more or less shows that they approve of our history” and “I would say I stand with [Mr. Snyder]”.

Both sides do bring up great points for and against the name change. If the Redskins were to change their name where do you cross the line. Would Notre Dame be next because of their schools name the Fighting Irish (is it derogatory towards celtic and the Irish). Or how about the Miami Dolphins, due to the large amount of sea creatures being killed each year.

Personally I don’t think that Washington or any team should have to change their names because teams like the Blackhawks, or the Indians and yes even the Fighting Irish have had an outstanding impact on North American culture in sport.

What side of the argument do you take?


Washington, J. (2013, October 8). As debate over ‘Redskins’ name swirls, hard to tell how many natives think it’s a slur. CTV News. Retrieved from:

White, J. (2013, October 9).Opponents of ‘Redskins’ name should ‘try to respect’ what it means to team, fans: owner. CTV News. Retrieved from:

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9 Responses to Read between the Lines: Team Names in Professional Leagues

  1. hartmendy says:

    I agree with you that these teams should not have to change their name. As mentioned in the article, there are much bigger issues affecting Native Americans, so why change something that really does not matter that much. Personally in my opinion, if the teams like the Braves, Redskins, Blackhawks, Indians, or even the Fighting Irish had to change their names; I think of it as more of a slap in the face to these people rather than actually getting rid of the ambiguity issue about their names.
    Hartley Mendelsohn

    Marked – SE

  2. jd10sh says:

    Very touchy subject, indeed. On one hand, it does seem derogatory. But on the other hand, some view it as honouring the Native American people. An interesting tweet I saw compared the Redskins name to the “tomahawk chop” Atlanta Braves fan’s do, and asks what the difference is. Call me a traditionalist, but I feel this name needs to stay. The name, and with it is offensive or not, is all based on opinion. If the team held promotions, or committed acts deemed offensive, or even racist then it may be time to rethink the name. But for now, I say the Washington Redskins are here to stay.

    Marked – SE

  3. wesdimascio says:

    It’s difficult to take a side on this subject because it’s extremely sensitive. I see both sides, though. Yes, the name “Redskin” can be seen as derogatory towards Native-Americans, but the name has been around for just over 80 years. Why is this becoming such a big issue now as opposed to back when the name was first created for the team? But, I also believe the Redskins’ owner, Dan Snyder, must be careful of what he chooses to do. This not only hurts the image of the Washington Redskins football team, but it also creates a negative image for the National Football League. I think Commissioner Roger Goodell will apply some pressure on Dan Synyder to change the name for that reason alone. If the Redskins change their name, other teams will be next in line. Teams don’t want to mess with a negative image on their brand.

    Marked – SE

  4. bcubello says:

    This is a very complicated subject. I understand points made by both sides. When this topic first became headline news, I would have said I agreed 100% with you in that I do not think the Washington Redskins should have to change their name. As Tommie Yazzi said, “there are more important issues at hand.” However, I was recently listening to the FAN 590 when Bob McCowan asked if people be okay with the name “Washington Jews”. I had never thought of this, and this has lead me to better understand why people are against the name “Redskins”.

    Marked – SE

  5. qs10im says:

    This is a difficult topic to debate about because the two sides are completely different. You have the Native Americans finding the name “Redskins” to be offensive to their heritage and to their ancestors. However, the other side believes that it is not offensive and yet it is potentially glorifying and honouring the Native American Culture. All the teams like the Redskins, Blackhawks, Braves, Indians and Seminoles have been around for a long time and their fans are very proud of the tradition and culture these names bring to their team.

    Marked – SE

  6. Regardless of which side you take with the name changes to these teams, there will be pros and cons to each. If you keep the names and don’t change anything, the same issues are still at hand. These teams have had these names for quite a long time and the issue is on the front burner once again but not enough action has been taken to give concrete reasons to change the names. If you remove the names, sure the groups that took offense will be happy, but then you upset the fans and the entire organization who has invested years of their time and money to follow these teams. It could create a massive uproar and the fans may have a difficult time coming to terms with it, something the owners surely don’t want. It is an interesting topic for sure, but as of now, I highly doubt the names will be changed due to the tradition of the teams.

    Marked – SE

  7. vbibby says:

    I agree that the teams should not have to change their names. I understand where the Native Americans are coming from due to Redskin being a derogatory term and because it is in professional sports it seems that it is being glorified but, Washington is not doing anything to bring a negative image to the the Native American culture. These teams have a dedicated fan base who embrace the rich history the teams provide. I think the issue stems from something deeper, personally I feel the Native American community feels that they should be compensated in some form. Here we have multi million even billion dollar organizations gaining revenue from the culture the Native Americans embrace and are receiving no form of thank you. I think thats the issue that needs to be looked at

    Marked – SE

  8. deeechong says:

    This issue of changing existing professional team names such as the “redskin” can be argued both back and forth from the article to the many concerns of these native american communities. Both sides have valid points and when creating these team names the consideration of others should definitely be taken into consideration as a deciding factor, but as previously mentioned there are larger and more complex issues within professional sport that should be looked at instead. Sport fans should be focusing on the game at hand as in the competition and professional sport teams should be sensitive to what they display towards the public.

    Marked – SE

  9. brendanmccardle says:

    It is not the first time I have heard people with the defence, “This hasn’t been an issue for so many years, why all of the sudden should the name be changed now that it’s getting this attention?” And to be honest, this really “grinds my gears” so to say. Where would our society be if that was the stance we took every time an issue like this arose? Women wouldn’t be allowed to vote, African Americans/Canadians would be slaves, and gay marriage would be against the law (scary to think it still is in a lot of places). However, lucky for us, these issues garnered attention at one point and enough people agreed that society could be made better by making a change. Just because we’ve been ignorant about an issue for 80 years doesn’t mean that we should live the next 80 years the same way.
    Side note – I think it’s unfair for the Chicago Blackhawks to be grouped into these conversations. Their logo/team name was chosen in honour of the Sauk Indian chief who sided with the British in the War of 1812. Not every professional sport team with an Aboriginal/Native American trademark warrants a need for change; the Chicago Blackhawks are a team who has incorporated such images in a respectful nature.

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