The Navajo Nation has requested that Washington use their team rebranding to honour the Indigenous people of America after decades of “historical misrepresentation”, and has suggested they be named the Code Talkers in tribute to those employed in the Second World War to produce coded messages.
Washington announced on Monday that they will “retire” the Redskins name and logo as part of a thorough review, having bowed to mounting pressure that the name was racist.
A number of sponsors called on Washington to drop the name and logo, including stadium rights’ owners FedEx, while Nike has dropped all Redskins-branded merchandise from its online store. It came following the death of George Floyd while in police custody, with the unarmed African-American killed after having a police officer force his knee into the back of his neck for nearly five minutes, which triggered the largest backlash against racial injustice and inequality seen since the Civil Rights movement.
As a result, Washington vowed to change their name, with either the Red Tails or the Red Clouds currently the favourite to be adopted when the franchise makes its final decision.
But Navajo Nation president Jonathan Nez called on the NFL franchise to pay tribute to the Native Americans that it has discriminated against through its name for 87 years since they were rebranded from the Braves, and offered the ‘Code Talkers’ as his personal suggestion.
“13 July, 2020 is now a historic day for all Indigenous peoples around the world as the NFL Washington-based team officially announced the retirement of the racist and disparaging ‘Redskins’ team name and logo,” Nez said in a statement.
“This change did not come about willingly by the team’s owners, but by the mounting pressure and advocacy of Indigenous peoples such as Amanda Blackhorse, and many other warriors who fought long and hard for this change.
“We strongly encourage the NFL Washington organisation to rename their team in such a way that truly honours and respects the First Americans of this country. Renaming the team “Code Talkers” to honour the Navajo Code Talkers, and other tribal nations who used their sacred language to help win World War II, would set the team on a path to restoring its reputation and correcting the historical misrepresentation of Indigenous peoples.”
The ‘Code Talkers’ were utilised in the Second World War to create and transmit coded messages using their knowledge of little-known Native American languages, which could then be easily decrypted without the risk of being worked out by the opposition, having originally been pioneered during the First World War. It is a term that is associated with bilingual Navajo speakers who were recruited by the US Marine Corps.
Washington have not indicated when their review and name change will be completed, but it follows pressure from retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods who along with Nike removed merchandise from online sales.
“On July 3rd, we announced the commencement of a thorough review of the team’s name. That review has begun in earnest. As part of this process, we want to keep our sponsors, fans and community apprised of our thinking as we go forward,” a Washington statement said on Monday.
“Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review.
“Dan Snyder and Coach Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.”
The Redskins logo is a Native American head inside a yellow circle with a two-feather headdress and two more attached to the outer circle, which was designed in 1971 after close consultation with Native American leaders, including former President of the National Congress of American Indians and Chairman of the Blackfeet Nation Walter Wetzel.