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The Super Bowl Ad You Didn’t See

By Chris Hoenig

National Congress of American Indians Super Bowl ad about the Washington Redskins name change.American Indians call themselves many things. There are tribes and tribal leaders they identify with. Celebrities and athletes, past and present.

Athletes. Yes, there have been American Indians who were professional athletes—one of the greatest pro athletes ever, Jim Thorpe, was of both American Indian and European descent. He won Olympic gold in the decathlon and the pentathlon, and played three different sports professionally: football (where he is considered a legend), baseball and basketball.

And, yes, American Indians do support professional sports. While the NCAA bans schools from using American Indian mascots, Florida State University is a glaring exception. Why? It has the blessing of the Seminole tribe.

But despite persistent statements from the National Football League, there is one thing that American Indians don’t support: the nickname of the NFL team based in our nation’s capital.

That’s the message in a powerful commercial released for the Super Bowl by the National Congress of American Indians. Over the course of two minutes, the narrated ad runs through tribes from coast-to-coast (the Inuit of Alaska and Navajo of the Southwest to the Chippewa of the Upper Midwest and the Choctaw of the Southeast), adjectives (proud, forgotten, spiritualist, patriot, underserved, struggling, resilient) and famous American Indians (Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Red Cloud, Jim Thorpe, Will Rogers, Geronimo) … all things they are proud to be.

“Native Americans call themselves many things,” the ad says. “The one thing they don’t …”

And it ends with an image of a Washington Redskins football helmet. But never once in the ad is the name “Redskins” said, nor does it appear in the YouTube description of the video. Instead, it calls for people to “get involved by contacting the Washington Professional Football Team,” a part of the Change the Mascot campaign that was launched by the Oneida Indian Nation and supported by the National Congress of American Indians.

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5 Comments

  • Wow! That was a really poignant ad. In 2014, honestly, I am a bit surprised at the reticence to changing the mascot.

  • Great Ad! Hope it gets some good airtime!

  • Wow! Past time for a CHANGE.

  • Honestly Florida state isn’t the only one in NCAA….being a Syracuse fan I know “orange men” did not originate from Otto the big orange mascot. However im not sure if the local Oneida or Onandaga tribes have ever made complaints about it.bit Syracuse did change the and from orange men to just orange (because it was sexist….go figure)
    Also Florida St isn’t the only one imitating either, look at the Atlanta Braves with the same chant and “chop” that they do.

    • Syracuse did change their nickname – which originated from the change of the school colors from rose pink & pea green to the well-known navy and orange in 1890 – in order to be gender-neutral. Where they fit into this discussion is their choice in mascot. The image of the school’s athletic teams was represented by a Saltine Warrior until 1978, when they changed it to a Roman-style gladiator under pressure from a Native American student organization. They were one of the first colleges to do so.
      (http://archives.syr.edu/history/mascots.html)

      The Atlanta Braves are one of many sports teams with American Indian-themed names: the KC Chiefs (who replaced their feathered headdress-wearing, horse-riding mascot with a wolf in 1989), Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks. The Atlanta Hawks (originally the Tri-Cities Blackhawks) and Golden State Warriors have dropped American Indian imagery from their names.
      (WA High School Drops Redskins Name; Will Pro Teams Follow?)

      The difference is that the American Indian community does not view those names as slurs. -Chris Hoenig, Content Manager, DiversityInc

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