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Indians give a cheer for the name ‘Redskins’

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Ninety percent of American Indians say the name Washington Redskins does not offend them, according to a new national survey.

Only 9 percent of polled Indians say they find the name of Washington's professional football team "offensive," according to the results of the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey. The other 1 percent did not respond.

"I thought more people would have had" problems with the name, said Adam Clymer, political director of the survey, which questioned more than 65,000 Americans of all races and ethnic groups between Oct. 7, 2003, and Sept. 20, 2004.

Mr. Clymer, formerly a reporter for the New York Times and other newspapers, says it was his idea to ask Americans polled who identified themselves as American Indians or Native Americans if they objected to the team name Redskins, a moniker that many Indian leaders and activists have said is offensive.

But Redskins' owner Daniel Snyder has insisted the team will keep the name it has had since 1933, when it was in Boston. The Redskins moved to Washington four years later.

A total of 768 persons from all 48 continental states interviewed in the Annenberg election survey identified themselves as Indians or Native Americans, slightly more than 1 percent of the survey sample and about the same percentage of Indians as counted in the census.

The question was phrased: "The professional football team in Washington calls itself the Washington Redskins. As a Native American, do you find that name offensive or doesn't it bother you?"

Data showed that 8 percent of men and 9 percent of women found the name offensive, while 90 percent of each sex said it did not bother them.

Those having more education, higher incomes and being younger and "politically liberal" were more likely to dislike the name than those whose education and income levels were lower, who were older, or who described themselves as "moderate" or "conservative" politically.

For example, 14 percent of those who called themselves liberal said they found the name offensive, compared with 6 percent of conservatives and 9 percent of moderates. Yet, even 85 percent of self-identified liberal Indians said the name did not bother them.

The poll had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

Karl Swanson, spokesman for the Washington Redskins, said the new poll "confirms what other surveys have consistently showed."

The findings in the Annenberg Election Survey support those of a poll that Sports Illustrated conducted in 2002.

Asked whether they were offended by the name Redskins, 75 percent of American Indians in that poll said they were not. Even among those Indians who live on reservations, 62 percent said they were not offended.

Vernon Bellecourt, president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media, said he believes both the Anneberg and Sports Illustrated poll are "flawed."

Mr. Bellecourt, a Chippewa who also is an executive committee member of the American Indian Movement, said he suspects about only about 2 percent to 3 percent of those polled who describe themselves as Native American are correct.

He cited two factors he believes contribute to confusion in this area.

"White persons suffer a real identity crisis, and they romanticize with us mythically. And a white person always will say, 'I'm part Indian and I don't object to the name, Redskins,'" he said.

In addition, Mr. Bellecourt said "about half" of those who claim to be Native Americans wrongly think they are, because "they were born in America."

Mr. Bellecourt says he feels confident "almost 100 percent of Native Americans totally object to our continued use as mascots for America's fun and games."

"Redskins is a slur, and there's a scent of racism in the District of Columbia" with that team name, he said.

He said Indian activists remain committed to eliminating that name and those of other teams that use tribal names such as Seminoles and Illini or call themselves Braves, Indians, or "Savages" or "Injuns."

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