Native American Leaders Celebrate Washington Name Change

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Washington announced on Monday it will retire its current team name and logo following a "thorough review of the team's name." The decision ended a prolonged fight regarding the team's name, and for many Native American leaders, the decision also served as a time for celebration

"This decision is the right one—and it took way too long to get here," Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan tweeted on Monday. "I am thankful my young Anishinaabe daughter will not have to grow up seeing this racist image of our people plastered on TV, jerseys and merchandise. This is an important first step. We've got more work to do."

Indian Country Today editor Mark Trahant discussed Washington's decision on Monday. 

"The Native American community is, for the most part, just elated." Trahant told Sports Illustrated's Corey Parson. "It's been a decades' long struggle for people who raise the issue. Unlike the other mascots, the one thing about Washington is it is actually a dictionary-defined slur."

"It is a word that a lot of people won't use. We don't use it in print. And so it's a lot more than just a normal mascot issue."

Trahant noted Washington's decision could have an additional impact on other teams who use Native American names and imagery. 

"I think [name changes] are inevitable," Trahant said. "I think this was a first step. ...I had a son who played high school football, and I'll tell you, every time we played a team with a [Native American] mascot it was upsetting because you'd hear the chants, the stuff that was directed at Indians, and it would just be uncomfortable."

"I think it's time that society moves on from that and figures out more creative ways to celebrate a team."

Washington is the only major North American sports franchise to currently commit to a name change. The Cleveland Indians announced on July 3 it will engage with "our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name." 

The Atlanta Braves announced on Tuesday a name change is "not under consideration," though the franchise may eliminate "The Chop" as a fan celebration.