Sports teams using Native American/Indian names and mascots has been a divisive issue for a long time. Perhaps the most controversial use is by the Washington Redskins. In large part, it’s due to unpopular owner Dan Snyder and his absolute unwillingness to change the team name/mascot/logo. Back in January, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation of northern California made this video called “Proud To Be” about Native American heritage, featuring famous tribal nations and native people. The video ends with a pointed criticism of the Washington Redskins name. For obvious reasons, the NFL did not choose to air it during the Super Bowl. But tonight during Game 3 of the NBA Finals, a one-minute version of this video will be airing in seven major markets: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, San Francisco and Washington (it already aired in Miami during Game 2). Here’s the full version of “Proud To Be.”
It’s really well-done. Will it have an effect? Looking back, the last paper I wrote in college was on the Native American/Indian (the actual term is also a debate) team names. Somewhat paradoxically, I recall seeing a statistic that many more white people than natives were offended. I’m not sure it’s the same way now, because I wrote the paper six years ago, and that survey was from the late ’90s. But the tide seems to be changing. The Cleveland Indians, possibly the second-most criticized franchise on this topic, have de-emphasized the use of logo/mascot Chief Wahoo in recent years. The spot must have cost a whole lot to make, and even more to advertising in such a prime place in huge markets. One wonders how much of that money could have directly gone to help Native Americans, one of the most poverty-stricken groups in the nation. But if the point of this ad is to get us talking more about this issue, it definitely succeeds.