Despite Liberal Media Push, Poll Shows Vast Majority of Americans Aren't Offended by 'Redskins'

Try as they might, the liberal sports media's efforts to shame the Washington Redskins into ditching their team name out of political correctness concerns hasn't significantly moved public opinion. A brand new Associated Press-GfK poll found 79 percent of respondents favored keeping the name.

Of course in his story on the poll, AP's Ben Nuckols weighted his piece heavily with Skins detractors, including former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. "There’s a derogatory name for every ethnic group in America, and we shouldn’t be using those words," the Colorado Republican complained. "We probably haven’t gotten our message out as well as it should be gotten out."


Yet left completely out of consideration is that many Native Americans themselves have no problems with sports teams nicknaming themselves the Redskins.

In 2004 the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 90 percent of American Indians are not offended by the Washington Redskins retaining their nickname. What's more, and this is key (emphasis mine):

Because they make up a very small proportion of the total population, the responses of 768
people who said they were Indians or Native Americans were collected over a very long period of polling, from October 7, 2003 through September 20, 2004. They included Indians from every state except Alaska and Hawaii, where the Anne nberg survey does not interview. The question that was put to them was “The professional football team in Washington calls itself the Washington Redskins. As a Native American, do you find that name offensive or doesn’t it bother you?”

In the April 2013 AP-GfK poll, only two percent of the respondents classified themselves as American Indian in ethnic heritage and AP did not give the breakdown on the Redskins question by racial categories (white, Hispanic, black, etc.). It would be interesting to see the breakdown in the AP poll, which was conducted over five days in mid-April, but that number would be highly inaccurate given the small sample size.

Also of interest in this discussion is the origin of the term "redskin." Last November, Adrian Jawort, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe noted that the historical record doesn't mesh with political correctness advocates' insistence that "redskin" was a racist slur invented by white colonists (emphasis mine):

Claiming “scalps” automatically means “red skins” is revisionist history, to be blunt. It was the Native Americans who first used the term “red” in order to differentiate between indigenous, white, and black people. When not referring to their individual and other tribes collectively, why would they use Indian, Native, or other adjectives to describe their obvious skin differences back then? Ives Goddard is a senior linguist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of History. Goddard wrote the book, I am a Redskin: The Adoption of a Native American Expression (1769-1826) and notes the earliest uses of “red skin” were in recorded statements from Natives by the French who generally traded amicably with them. The French were careful to denote the “red” distinction was made by Natives themselves. By the time of the Phips Proclamation, according to Goddard, “red” to describe Natives was used “by both French and English…. Although Europeans sometimes used such expressions among themselves, however, they remained aware of the fact that this was originally and particularly a Native American usage.” Also citing Goddard in the recent article, “Before The Redskins Were The Redskins: The Use Of Native American Team Names In The Formative Era of American Sports, 1857-1944,” Professor of Law and historian J. Gordon Hylton writes about the term, “…throughout the nineteenth century, the term was essentially neutral when used by whites, reflecting neither a particularly positive or particularly negative connotation.” Even Sitting Bull once remarked, “I am a red man. If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place.”

Because American Indians are a small sliver of the total population, it is incredibly easy for the liberal media to amplify the voices of left-wing Native American activists and conflate their opinions with everyday Americans who are proud of their Native American heritage. Add on top of that that many liberal sports journalists are liberal and eagerly jump on identity politics bandwagons -- as the Jason Collins hype of late attests. But while those two facts explain the media slant on this matter, they certainly don't excuse it.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters