Washington Post columnist has it right: New survey needed

A columnist at The Washington Post suggested Wednesday that another poll be conducted on the nickname of the Washington, D.C.-based professional football team. Sounds like a good idea, but I would say the questions need tweaking.

In his column, Robert McCartney suggests that a fresh, reliable opinion poll is needed because “team owner Dan Snyder and the National Football League are relying on a 10-year-old opinion survey of questionable value as pretty much their sole morally acceptable argument for keeping the name.”

McCartney says the Washington franchise and the NFL continue to say that nine out 10 Native Americans support the name. The poll was mentioned by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at a press conference during Super Bowl week. In reference to that press conference, McCartney wrote:

Goodell’s assertion was based on a single question posed in what was otherwise a U.S. political poll conducted over 12 months by the National Annenberg Election Survey of the University of Pennsylvania in 2003 and 2004.

The poll found 768 people who identified themselves as Indians and asked, “As a Native American, do you find that name offensive, or doesn’t it bother you?” Ninety percent said they weren’t bothered, while just 9 percent said it was offensive.

The questions to Native Americans ought to be: Should the Washington football franchise end the use of its team’s nickname “redskins”? As a Native American, do you believe your culture is being honored by a football team using the nickname “redskins”?

I would also suggest posing a question or two that would allow respondents to rate the intensity of how they feel toward the name redskins.

Some dictionaries define redskin as “usually” or “often” an “offensive” slang term. Still, I know some Native people who say they are not offended or bothered by the term “redskin,” but that they believe the Washington team’s name should be changed. To some, the name itself is not offensive but the behavior by some fans, and the stereotypes perpetuated by that behavior, are considered demeaning to their Native culture.

Readers of this blog know that I have written about this topic and two others: the lack of data on issues affecting Native Americans and the notion that society cares little about Native Americans. In this particular blog post, all three are related. Let me connect the dots for you. Society cares little about Native Americans unless it involves changing the name of a favorite sports team. If society cared about how Native Americans today feel about changing the name of the Washington, D.C. football team, a new survey would be conducted. The people with the power to commission such a survey care more about their business than about Native Americans, therefore, there is a lack of data to accurately gauge how Native people feel about this issue.

Does that make sense?

Follow me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/karenmichel and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ADigitalNativeAmerican.

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