- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2020

A new study from the University of California Berkeley surveyed more than 1,000 American Indians and reported Tuesday that a plurality of respondents find the Washington Redskins‘ team nickname offensive.

The poll found 49% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the name is offensive, 38% “were not bothered by it” and the rest “were undecided or indifferent.”

The rate was higher among people who consider their heritage a strong part of their identities.

“Of those polled for the study, 57% who strongly identify with being Native American and 67% of those who frequently engage in tribal cultural practices were found to be deeply insulted by caricatures of Native American culture,” a news release from the university said.

The controversy over the name “Redskins” reached its peak in the middle of last decade, but debate began to subside, especially after a 2016 Washington Post poll found nine in 10 American Indians did not find the name offensive.

Berkeley assistant professor of psychology Arianne Eason, one of the co-lead authors of the study, said previous public opinion polls didn’t “add up” to her.

“Ultimately, our study demonstrates that people who identify most with being Native American are the ones most likely to feel harmed by the continued use of stereotypical Native American team names and mascots,” Eason said. “This suggests that the debate over the continued use of Native mascots should be more closely attuned to Native American voices, particularly the voices of those who are most highly identified.”

Washington’s NFL team has been called the Redskins since 1933, one year after debuting as the Boston Braves. Team owner Dan Snyder has resisted any calls to change the name, once telling USA Today, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER. You can use caps.”

Meanwhile, Capital News Service found U.S. high schools are continuing to abandon the nickname — a 20% decrease between 2013 and 2017.

The Berkeley study did not outright call for the Redskins to change their name, but emphasized the importance of considering “a broad diversity of Native peoples and experiences.”

The university’s news release also pointed out that “progressive liberals were more likely to oppose the Redskins‘ name, compared to their more conservative counterparts.”

The team’s trademark protection of the name “Redskins” was challenged in two different petitions, with the more recent one coming in 2014. At first, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office voted to cancel the team’s trademarks, but the Redskins won a federal appeal. Before the Supreme Court heard the case, a judgment was passed in a related case involving the denial of a trademark for “The Slants,” an Asian-American rock band.

When the ruling came down that the “disparagement clause” of the law governing trademarks violated First Amendment-protected right to freedom of expression, the American Indian petitioners withdrew their case against the Redskins.

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