A comprehensive review from 2013 shows that the United States is home to 62 high schools that have the Redskins as their athletic mascot. The majority of the students at three of those schools — or about five percent of them — are Native American.
The Washington Post sent an intrepid reporter briefly beyond the Beltway to find out what could possibly motivate students, parents, coaches and school officials at one of the schools: Red Mesa High School in the rural, isolated corner of northeastern Arizona.
Turns out it’s simple: They like their mascot just fine.
“I don’t find it derogatory,” school district superintendent Tommie Yazzie told the Post. “It’s a source of pride.”
Red Mesa student council president Mckenzie Lameman agreed.
“It’s not a racist slur if it originates from a Native American tribe,” the junior told the paper. “It’s always used in the context of sports.”
At a recent Red Mesa Redskins football, game, the Post reporter found dedicated parents stamping the bleachers and signs in the raucous, festive crowd reading “Redskin Nation” and “Fear the Spear.”
The school isn’t without its problems, of course. Despite a new $400,000 football field full of spongy artificial turf (paid for by federal largesse), the school’s water fountains are currently unusable because of contaminated water. Academically, only 36 of the students are proficient on a statewide math exam.
“There’s more important things to worry about than ‘Redskins,'” senior football player Arlo Begay told the Post.
Almost 90 percent of the students and over 70 percent of the teachers at Red Mesa favor keeping the Redskins mascot, according to a survey completed this month.
A 2004 poll by the Annenberg Public Policy Center poll concurs with this sentiment. That survey found that the Redskins name does not offend 90 percent of all actual Native Americans in the United States.
The feelings of the actual Navajo Nation members or actual Native Americans in general has done nothing to stop a very small but very dedicated group of deeply offended activists from lobbying the Washington Redskins football team to change its mascot or trying to force a name change through federal coercion.
For example, last month, notoriously sue-happy law professor John Banzhaf formally petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to refuse to renew a radio station license owned by the Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder because, the professor alleges, using the word “Redskins” is “hate speech.” (RELATED: Law Professor Files FCC Petition Calling Redskins ‘HATE SPEECH’)
In his petition to the FCC, Banzhaf alleges that WWXX-FM (ESPN 980) is “deliberately, repeatedly, and unnecessarily” using the word “R*dskins” “especially in prime time,” which has an “adverse impact on impressionable young Indian as well as non-Indian children.”
Banzhaf refuses to write out the word “Redskins” in his petition and compares the mascot to “N*gg*rs, Sp*cs, ‘W*tb*cks, Ch*nks,’ ”K*kes, C*nts, F*gs, etc.”
Banzhaf teaches public interest law at George Washington University, an institution so beset by deceit and scandal that U.S. News & World Report stripped the undergraduate college of its ranking in 2012. (RELATED: Cut Down! U.S. News ‘De-Ranks’ George Washington Univ. After Cheating Flap)
Another dedicated hater of the Redskins mascot is Amanda Blackhorse, a primary instigator of a federal lawsuit which seeks to strip the Washington Redskins of trademark protection. (RELATED: 12 Trademarks Declared Less Offensive Than Redskins)
Blackhorse, a Navajo who lives only an hour or so from Red Mesa, has attempted to shame Red Mesa administrators for their refusal to kowtow to political correctness and change mascots.
“The adults in that school should know better, and they are not informed of this issue — and shame on them for that,” Blackhorse said in a recent Facebook video, according to the Post.
Red Mesa officials remain unmoved.
“This protest feels like it’s coming from one person,” Red Mesa athletic director Al Begay told the Post.