NCAI Demands Accountability from Washington Commanders, NFL on Native “Themed” Mascots

Published on Feb 02, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC | The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) demands accountability for the harms caused by Native “themed” mascots and imagery as the National Football League’s (NFL) Washington, DC franchise revealed its new team name, the “Commanders.” The announcement by the Washington Commanders comes a year and a half after it retired the “R-word” name and mascot, a decision it reached following years of protest from Tribal Nations, leaders, and activists. However, following the announcement, the team released videos to promote its new identity which prominently displayed the offensive branding from its previous incarnation.

Statement from NCAI President Fawn Sharp:
“Today, we are grateful for the end of a dark era, one in which the NFL and the Washington franchise commercially exploited and dehumanized Native people and culturally appropriated our most sacred practices.

Make no mistake, the deep wounds and harm caused by a near century of open and celebrated racism and bigotry remains. Roger Goodell and Dan Snyder have yet to take step one, as promised to the National Congress of American Indians, toward owning the genocidal history of the former name. They have shown a lack of accountability for the unspeakable harm to our citizens that they accepted, perpetuated, and profited from.

Without an apology, without any measure of accountability, and without fulfilling the honored commitments they made to Tribal Nations in 2020 to right this wrong, the NFL and Snyder are simply ‘Commanding’ a continued course of open, intentional and profit-driven racism and erasure.

Until the behavior of the NFL and the franchise owners change, the league will continue to endure racism scandals, civil rights lawsuits, activist protests, and public relations embarrassments. It’s time that both we and the public at large demand more. We have every intention to do our part and aggressively hold the NFL accountable for the harm caused. Much work remains. On behalf of Tribal Nations, we stand ready to share our vision for truth, reconciliation, and national healing.”

NCAI is the oldest, largest, and most representative national organization serving American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations and their citizens. It has been leading Indian Country’s movement to eradicate offensive Native “themed” mascots from sports and popular culture for more than 50 years.

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About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the United States. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies. NCAI promotes an understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people, and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.

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