LAWRENCE, Kan. — The call for change in the National Football League is growing louder.
A new series of television spots will begin airing on Tuesday night in some TV markets, pressuring the Washington Redskins to change their nickname.
The ad producers say the name is offensive to Native Americans.
At Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, they’ve been calling for change in the world of sports for years. The history of that small university dates back to the Civil War era, and Native American history means everything to its students and faculty.
Dr. Dan Wildcat is among the Haskell faculty members who say the public service announcements can bring attention to a serious racially-based issue.
Dr. Wildcat teaches Native American studies at Haskell University, and his heritage comes from Native American roots.
The public service spots are sponsored by the National Congress of American Indians. Dr. Wildcat says the TV ads are powerful, mostly because the spots never use the term Redskins.
“It caught that diversity, and yet in spite of that diversity, and the ways we choose to refer to ourselves, the choice that we don’t make is one that the owner of a professional football team seems bound and determined to hold onto,” Dr. Wildcat said.
Doctor Wildcat says the Kansas City Chiefs nickname is also potentially offensive, but to a lesser degree than the Washington name, because it doesn’t refer directly to the color of a person’s skin.
Professor Rhonda LeValdo also teaches at Haskell University, and has been an activist seeking change to sports names that refer to Native Americans. She believes the ads spread awareness, and from her viewpoint, common sense.
“I think it’s important to help non-native people understand how this word is demeaning to our people,” LeValdo said. “Just by explaining that, you’re educating a whole group of people as to why that word is offensive.”
Both professors say they hope the ads bring attention to practices like the ‘tomahawk chop,’ which Wildcat says is inherently offensive to his culture. In fact, Dr. Wildcat says so many of those instances have sprung up in sports, that he’s stopped watching the National Football League altogether.
Those TV ads will begin airing during Tuesday’s broadcast of the NBA Finals.
FOX 4 reached out to both the Washington Redskins and the Kansas City Chiefs, but neither club made a comment.