Is the nickname, Redskins, racist?

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The first time someone told me that there was a growing protest in Washington by some native American tribes over the football team nickname, Redskins, my knee-jerk reaction was, “That’s ridiculous.” In all honesty, I often react impulsively — a character trait I’m attempting to improve.

Now, with the issue of the Washington football team’s nickname gaining traction in the media and the White House (President Obama recently weighed in on the matter), I am rethinking my initial opinion.

Dismissing this issue, at first, was easy, because I figured it only affected a tiny audience — about 5 million native Americans, according to the census bureau — and some polls show that only about 10 percent of this group is angry about the nickname, Redskins.

Should the size of the audience matter though, if someone is getting hurt? If 50 million people objected, how long would it take for the NFL to force Washington to change the name?

Several major universities changed their nicknames years ago. St. John, for example, went from from Redmen to Red Storm. Miami of Ohio changed its nickname from Redskins to Redhawks. Both schools seem to have suffered no ill or loss of fans since this transition.

So, I wonder, is the name Redskins racist? I’m still not sure about that one, but I am sure that if I owned the NFL team in Washington, I’d change the name.

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Mark Barnes is the author of many education books, including Bestseller Hacking Education, part of his Hack Learning Series, books that solve big problems with simple ideas. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and student-centered learning. Join more than 100,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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