WASHINGTON — Much of the debate over whether to keep the Washington football team’s name has centered around whether it’s actually offensive to Native Americans. Owner Dan Snyder has searched high and low to find American Indians who aren’t put off by the term “Redskins” as justification for keeping it.
But according to Erik Stegman, an author of a new report on Native mascots and team names, that discussion misses the point.
“This entire debate is being spun in the wrong direction, and it doesn’t really matter whether or not one Native person you talk to supports or doesn’t,” Stegman said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “When you have kids in schools who are getting harassed, who are feeling a lack of self-worth because they themselves have become a mascot for someone else, I think that’s really what the point is all about. We need to stop having this debate over which Native people are offended because it’s a ridiculous debate.”
Stegman is associate director of the Half in Ten Education Fund at the progressive Center for American Progress. Previously, he served as majority staff counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He and Victoria Phillips, a professor at American University Washington College of Law, argue in a report published Tuesday that derogatory team names create an “unwelcome and hostile learning environment” for Native students that “directly results in lower self-esteem and mental health” for these adolescents and young adults.
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