Native American Youth Have A Message For The NFL
The NFL is reeling after it has become obvious to society that the league has lost its moral compass. In response, they have enacted various forms of damage control to save face, but still, their priorities appear adrift. They suspended Wes Welker longer for Adderall usage than Ray Rice knocking out his now-wife on video.
With domestic violence rightfully in the headlines, this quote appeared on the NFL Website, to let the public know the league’s response on sexual assault and domestic violence, “The NFL has a lot of work to do inside the league and out to start to make real change in our society.” They also claimed that they were expanding age-appropriate programs to help with character development in order to show our young athletes and coaches healthy relationships. What about the NFL showing our young Native people that they matter? All they have done is confirm inappropriate caricatures of their ethnicity. These damning stereotypes reinforce the idea that Native people are unintelligent, hostile, and primitive.
A recent study that was published from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice showed that “The racial group most likely to be killed by law enforcement is Native Americans, followed by African Americans, Latinos, Whites, and Asian Americans.” The Native community has a list of names in the battle against police brutality by local law enforcement.
I watched in response to Ferguson and the Eric Garner decision how NFL players have emerged out of the tunnels with their hands up to bring attention and confirm solidarity. Recently, Cleveland Browns player Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt before a game that stated “Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford III.” As I watched, I knew how powerful this would be, but I was also confused. How can one come out in support of injustice while yelling the R-word? I’m not sure why this doesn’t make sense to everyone. Is there not a double standard?
If there were more Native athletes that would wear shirts letting America know the names of the Native youth that have been killed by law enforcement, would it make a difference? Would it be covered on national news? With less than 3 million Native Americans, we are the asterisk in this society. Those that have the opportunity to bring an issue to a national platform should be doing so. Currently, minorities are standing together against wrongs that are happening in our society. We are standing in solidarity and making sure our voices are heard. We are marching together and we are protesting with our friends, but Native issues are always forgotten in the headlines. Those same players that are showing support for African-American youth are showing Native American youth that they can ignore a racial slur that their boss will not get rid of. There is a huge disconnect right now with the lack of understanding this blatant racism.
The NBA is an example on how to deal with racism in a professional sports league. There was obvious racial turmoil in the Clippers franchise with Donald Sterling, and he was given a well-deserved harsh penalty for using offensive language. The R-word is considered to some Native Americans to be as offensive as the N-word is to some African-Americans. This is obvious racial turmoil, and the NFL is still silent. With the help of social media the push for the NFL and Dan Snyder to change the mascot has grown.
How many Native Americans and Civil Rights organizations does the Washington Football Team need to tell them to change the mascot? How many people do we need at a game protesting for it to be covered by national news or any channel covering that game?
When something is wrong, it is wrong and as a society, we should stand together and say enough.
The National Football League does have a lot of work to make real change in society. Start with our listening to our youth. Native youth are telling you to Change The Mascot.