Native Americans, Inc.

[ Posted Thursday, September 27th, 2007 – 16:23 UTC ]

I'd like to offer a modest proposal in an area I've never written about before -- sports.

My wife and I were watching the Washington Redskins attempt to play football last weekend, and I noticed the rather bizarre helmets they were wearing, which looked like they had become the Washington Registered Trademarks. The announcer cleared things up by explaining they were "period" uniforms, since the Redskins are celebrating their 75th anniversary this year.

This brought up the subject of their regular logo:


Redskins logo


Now, this logo has been around for years. The logo and the team's name are seen as offensive by Native Americans. While I can't say that I blame them about the name, the logo is actually pretty tame, as these things go. Compare it (for instance) with the Cleveland Indians logo, the maniacally-grinning "Chief Wahoo":


Indians logo


It's pretty obvious that this one has actually been designed to be offensive. And today, no team in America would consider using such a disrespectful logo or team name about, say, African Americans. Can you imagine the Cleveland logo in blackface to go with a team named the "Cleveland Negroes" in today's America?

Which means there is a double standard at work here. Native Americans are still OK to ridicule, while other ethnic groups are not.

Native Americans have actually been making progress on this front, at least at the collegiate level and below. Stanford University decided to retire "Indian" in 1972, and today they have a pine tree which cavorts on the sidelines of their games. More recently, Chief Illiniwek, the mascot of the University of Illinois, was retired this year -- but it took the NCAA banning them from postseason play for them to do so. Pro sports, however, can't be pressured by alumni or the NCAA to change mascots.

So here's my modest proposal. [OK, it's actually my wife's brilliant idea, and I just reappropriated it as my own.] What would happen if the NFL and MLB and all the other professional sports leagues in this country forced teams with Native American team names or mascots to license these names every year?

Make them pay into a corporation (call it Native Americans, Inc. for example) each and every year they continue to use their Native American imagery to make money. This way, everybody wins. The fans are happy (fans never want to change team names), the teams are happy (they can assuage their guilt at the team name by paying for it each year), and the Native Americans are happy (the money could go to every tribe in America that doesn't have a casino, for instance).

Licensing is already taking over pro sports, and is making its way into collegiate sports as well. On the pro side, it's mostly stadium names (so far). On the collegiate level, it's mostly bowl games (so far). But if you can sell the naming rights to a stadium, then the Native Americans should be able to be compensated as well.

They could even set up a sliding scale of fees. Since "Indian" is offensive, but only mildly so (since it just reaffirms that Columbus didn't even know what continent he was on), the Cleveland Indians would only pay... say... five million dollars a year to license it. Since "Redskin" is much more offensive, the Washington Redskins would pay ten million, or maybe fifteen million. But since the Indians logo (Chief Wahoo) is incredibly offensive, they'd have to fork over thirty million or fifty million a year to use it. The Redskins logo is more respectful, so they'd only pay five million. The key point: Native Americans, Inc. gets to decide. They set the rates. They'd have to come up with a price for the Atlanta Braves (with a special surcharge for that offensive "tomahawk chop" chant they do), the Kansas City Chiefs, and all other pro teams using Native American imagery. College teams could license images and names for less money, of course, but they'd still have to pay to use them as well.

The teams could either decide to make their logos less offensive, or make the fans pay for it. They could change their team name at any time, and not have to pay license fees any more. It would be totally up to them to decide.

Some may argue this plan is not perfect. What about other ethnic groups? Would people who can prove Scandinavian descent get paid by the Minnesota Vikings? Well, no. We didn't steal North America from the Vikings, after all (the Danes even still own Greenland). There's no history of genocide against Cowboys, or Packers, or Texans, or 49ers, or any of the other team names, so there's no reason to make restitution to them. This is, after all, guilt money. This plan would not involve the government or taxes in any way (although they might have to pass a federal law to impose such a scheme, but that's easy since the NFL and MLB both have special dispensations from the government to run what are, in essence, monopolies).

The more I think about it, the more sense this idea makes. Sure, it probably will never happen, but that doesn't make it any less a good idea.


[I was going to write today about the New Hampshire Democratic presidential debate last night, but was unable to find a transcript online. There are several issues which were brought up in the debate which I would like to address, but I refuse to until I can accurately quote the candidates. I apologize for the delay.]


-- Chris Weigant


7 Comments on “Native Americans, Inc.”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    I think this is a great idea. In today's world of "naming rights" where big business pays to have a stadium or arena named after them it seems only fair that it should work the other way when names are used without permission.

    Since profit is the only thing ML sports seems to understand these days they should be made to pay!


  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    Of course, the flip side is that there are the "professional activists" who get involved in this sort of pseudo oppression on behalf of groups who would just wish they (the bogus activists) would butt out and shut their mouths..

    The recent Seminole snafu comes to mind.

    It seems to me that most issues of this kind are whiners who go out of their way to act offended at this or that... The Washington Redskins have been in existence for 75 years. Surely they have earned the right to the name...

    Take Disney's SONG OF THE SOUTH. It's a classic, even though it's filled with politically incorrect cliches and stereotypes. Should we disregard it's literary value, solely because it makes one group uncomfortable.. The banning of books like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are more examples of this politically correct world gone stoopid..

    Where does it end???


  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    Since this is a similar issue, allow me to post this:

    Suing America When You Shouldn't Be Here
    Friday , September 28, 2007
    By Neil Cavuto

    Only in America can those who shouldn't even be in America sue America.

    The very laws that define us as citizens used against us by those who are not citizens.

    I'm sorry, all the legal mumbo-jumbo in the world cannot escape the basic fact that a town like Danbury, Connecticut is doing something illegal, trying to do something about illegals.

    I've heard the best defense is a good offense, but come on!

    So Danbury is breaking the law, trying to apprehend those who are breaking the law?

    We're losing it, guys.

    We're losing our rights.

    We're losing our constitution.

    We're losing what makes us, us.

    And providing rights to those who have no rights.

    And you know what?

    It stinks.

    It stinks because I think Danbury's going to lose this. Not because it's wrong, it isn't. But because some double-speaking lawyer is going to make her clients seem even more wronged.

    I'll tell you what's wrong.

    Their being here in the first place.


    They have our number, and they have our own lawyers giving them our money.

    I see a pattern. Providing licenses to illegals in cars they shouldn't drive to jobs they
    shouldn't have...demanding health benefits for kids who shouldn't even be here.

    We are a kind and compassionate country that welcomes one and all.

    A great melting pot.

    And now, a great melting crack pot as well.


  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale -

    What Seminoles snafu? Do tell! Must have been a local story, or I probably missed it because I just don't pay all that much attention to sports.

    "Song of the South" should be released by Disney, I agree with you about that. Where else are we going to see "Zip-I-Dee-Doo-Dah" performed? Seriously, though, SOTS actually is available in Canada and (I assume) elsewhere outside the US. So it's not like Disney is adverse to still making money off it or anything.

    As for the Redskins, number one, football is close to being Washington's official religion, so I don't see them changing the name any time soon. Native American groups have been trying to get the name changed for a long time now, with no luck. Number two, it's not about their "right" to use the name, with free speech everyone has the right to call their team anything they want. But teams self-censor, to make money. Could you conceive of a team with an obscenity in their name? It wouldn't last very long, because fans wouldn't support it. Or how about "Child Molesters" for a team name? I bet the stadium would be empty when they played.

    Al Franken, in one of his very first appearances on Saturday Night Live, did a hilarious sketch (this was in the "Franken and Davis" days)... if the Native Americans had won and were running things. It's full of offensive ethnic slurs, and I sincerely hope his opponents in the Minnesota Senate race don't start quoting it out of context. In "Powwow With the Press," (brought to you by the new model "Polack" car), they discuss the Lacrosse teams the "Milwaukee Dagos" and the "Cleveland Kikes."

    They were obviously making a point, and the sketch is still funny today, but it's a valid point. A team is free to call itself the "Cleveland Kikes" or the "Cleveland Negroes" but would public outcry force them to change the name? You bet it would. There are less Native Americans, so their public outcry is less noticable, but aren't they just as right as African Americans would be to protest the "Washington Blackskins"?

    I'm not saying censor the teams or force them to change, what I'm suggesting is that they pay a licensing fee to use the names and images. OK, it's a radical idea, but hey, that's what I'm here for, right?


  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:


    >What Seminoles snafu? Do tell!

    It was local.. Florida Seminoles were on the NCAA's shitlist because of the Seminoles mascot. The Seminole tribe here in Florida told the whiners and "politically correct" types to, basically, "shut the hell up!"..

    Unfortuanatly, I couldn't find the original Sun Sentinel (Miami) article but did find a BLOG reference to it:

    I have linked an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel which reports that the Seminole Nation of Florida has adopted a formal resolution supporting Florida State University and its use of the Seminole name and mascot images. Max Osceola, a tribal council member said, “We thought it would be appropriate to put in black and white our endorsement.” T.K. Wetherell, FSU president, was invited to the Seminole Tribal Council on 17 June 2005 to receive the resolution at the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. Wetherell said, “The tribe believes that they haven’t signed a peace treaty with the federal government, and they are not about to roll over for the NCAA.”

    I issue an open challenge to Father Wild and any Marquette faculty member or student who can cite any major study that suggests Native American nicknames and mascots are offensive to the majority of Native Americans. Sports Illustrated published a study (4 March 2002 issue) which reported that more than 80% of Native Americans both on and off reservations are not offended by Native American nicknames and mascots. The entire “Warrior” nickname issue as presented by the Marquette administration has been nothing but a sham. The Seminole Nation of Florida won’t be putting up with any shams perpetrated on them.

    Also, this google link:

    Gives you a lot more info.. I am just too lazy at the moment to go thru all the links and find out which would give you the best info. :D

    >"Song of the South" should be released
    >by Disney, I agree with you about that.

    Actually, that came to mind from a HUFFPO commentator who blasted Disney for that overbearing bit of "political correctness"..

    >what I'm suggesting is that they pay
    >a licensing fee to use the names and images.

    Well, I am of two minds on this.. I guess the deciding factor in my mind is how long has the franchise been using the image/name/whatever..

    My particular pet peeve in this whole issue is when people and groups who have NO DOG IN THE HUNT whatsoever, stick their noses in things. The Seminole incident is a perfect example of "political correctness" gone way WAY too far..


  6. [6] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Interesting bit about the Seminoles. I believe the Illini tribe (or at least some of them) also supported "Chief Illiniwek" as well.

    Native Americans, like all Americans, cannot be simply pigeonholed into "all of us believe X."

    One of my favorite sayings (forget where I heard this):

    "There are two types of people in this world: those who divide people into two groups, and those who do not."


  7. [7] 
    CDub wrote:

    Chris Weigant wrote:

    One of my favorite sayings (forget where I heard this):

    "There are two types of people in this world: those who divide people into two groups, and those who do not."

    That is solid good stuff, wisdom that makes you laugh.

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