NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, February 26, 2016, 1:16 PM
Young people are turning against Washington owner Dan Snyder when it comes to name change.
This month’s annual NFL poll by Public Policy Polling uncovered deep generational and racial divides on whether the D.C. NFL Team should change its name. Of 410 polled fans, 64% stated that the team should NOT change its name which is in direct opposition to the 67% of polled Native Americans express that the D.C. team name is a “racial or racist word”.
Despite the majority, a closer look and an unpacking of this poll shows that change is on the horizon.
1) The Trend to Change D.C. Team Name is Rising
Mirroring a 2015 summer Sports Illustrated poll, 25% of fans polled do want a name change. This is a rising trend from 18% in same PPP poll from 2014, which rose from 11% in an AP-GfK poll in 2013. Attitudes are changing, and thanks to the demographic information in the PPP poll, we can understand why.
2) African-American and Latino Fans Are Changing Views on Changing Name
While 77% of white fans believe the D.C. Team name should not be changed, that number is drastically reduced for polled fans who are African-American (38%) and Latino (33%). Back in the 2014 PPP poll, this was not the case as views of Black and Latino fans were more aligned with whites than Native American. This change is the primary reason for the overall 7-point polling shift since 2014.
Such change is reflected in the outspokenness of former and current NFL stars like Art Monk, Randall McDaniel, Richard Sherman, and Jason Taylor, all who have stated that it is time to change the name. Says 1968 Olympian and sports icon John Carlos:
“For tribes or reservations to say they’re uncomfortable with you using that name, and then have players say they are just as uncomfortable, and the owner (Dan Snyder) stands there, saying he’ll never change the name? How do you get away with that?”
One way is to have fans continuing to support that very owner. White NFL fans, both men and women, have not budged much – despite one notable exception.
3) Young White Fans Indicate a White Generational Divide
Poll Question: “The (D.C. Team) Should Change Their Name”
16% – 65 & Older
19% – 46 to 65
22% – 30 to 45
A whooping 70 percent of those 18-to-29 say it is time to retire Washington’s nickname.
70% – 18 to 29
Since the vast majority of the polled NFL fans were white, this divide suggests a new generation of white fans who value ending racial slurs over maintaining “tradition”. And while small sub-group samples have larger margins for error, this stark gap should require all future polling to include “age range”.
After seeing this poll, I contacted author and attorney Gyasi Ross, a member of the Blackfeet Indian Nation, who regularly speaks to young white audiences about Native culture and the sports mascot issue. He stated: “I think what we are seeing for the first time is young white people may have the notion that native people are actual human beings with a voice, volition, autonomy, and self-determination”.
But why now?
If young white attitudes are indeed shifting, Ross believes it is linked to recent “mass awareness campaigns such as ChangeTheMascot.org, National Congress for American Indians, and other Tribal organizations” that have educated youth, elected officials, and influenced mass media.
But haven’t tribal organizations been fighting for decades?
Yes, but Ross also cited “the role of social media” both as a communication and mobilizing tool (see #NotYourMascots), and an additional way to interact with Native people and realize that “they actually exist”.
Since young fan bases eventually become older fan bases, expect the name to change. It is only a matter of sooner or later.
4) Older Whites Fans Have Barely Budged
With changed views, media outlets should no longer refer to polls as what “NFL fans” think, but more accurately and specifically refer to the opinion of older white fans.
The overall polling of whites went from 74% to 77% from 2014 to 2016. While African-American players have used their voice, white NFL stars seem more interested in promoting beer and pizza than truth and justice.
However, less prominent NFL names in the over-30 white group include former NFL coach Mike Holmgren who believes the name should “absolutely” be changed and former Raiders President Amy Trask who says “changing the team name and logo can inspire people to treat everyone respectfully.”
The momentum appears to be shifting in forcing Washington to replace this logo.
But Holmgren and Trask are not owner Dan Snyder or NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell – both who have expressed incredible racial ignorance and arrogance. Of the 567 federally recognized tribes in the United States, not one tribe has endorsed the Washington football team.
Either Snyder and Goodell don’t know or don’t care.
5) 67% of Native Americans View The D.C. Team Name as “Racist or Racial word”
And 67% of whites do not, according to a California State University study. Whites were either “neutral” (26%), or rejected outright that the term was racist (41%). Put differently, whites were either racially ignorant or racially arrogant.
In 2015, former Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker, Marv Kellum, who is white, admitted his change after a visit to The Pine Ridge reservation:
“I never even knew the true meaning of the word (D.C. Team name). I had no idea it was linked to the government’s bounty on men, women and children. It’s hard to believe that the government was paying money for killing people. Most white people are ignorant to all of that. I was. How can you have a (Mascot) name like that once you know what it means?”
For more on the word’s background, Ross elaborates here.
Unlike Kellum, most whites will never set foot on a reservation or ever come in meaningful contact with many Native Americans. But in the age of the Internet that shouldn’t preclude whites from learning from the majority of native voices, and displaying a racial humility emerging in younger whites.
Ross says “The historical relationship of whites toward native people has been unapologetically paternalistic”.
For Ross that includes past calls by Dan Snyder for Native people to focus on more pressing issues. To that common criticism Ross responded: “It is the height of arrogance to me that non-natives, a white man, would super-impose his will and say what the ‘real issues’ are.”
A new poll suggests this unapologetic paternalism is shifting in younger whites to complement changing attitudes of African-Americans and Latinos. Ross predicts that within three years, the D.C. team name will disappear like the Confederate Flag at the South Carolina State capitol.
The name change train has left the station, and the last group left still clearly supporting racial slurs for team names are over-30 white people including Snyder, Goodell, and, not surpsingly, Donald Trump.
It’s time to catch up.