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Poll Finds Most Native Americans Aren't Offended By Redskins Name


A new poll from The Washington Post finds that a vast majority of Native Americans they surveyed aren't offended by the name of Washington's NFL team, the Redskins. Five-hundred-and-four self-identified Native Americans across the country took part. It's getting a lot of attention because, over the last few years, there's been a vocal campaign to change the name of the team. I spoke with Washington Post reporter John Woodrow Cox about it.

JOHN WOODROW COX: The key question was one written, actually, into the Annenberg - the famous Annenberg poll from 2004 that basically asked people if they were offended by the Washington Redskins' name. We wanted to understand if Native Americans' opinions had changed over time, over the past twelve years, because that poll has been very controversial. It's been used quite a bit by the team as justification for keeping the name. So we replicated that question exactly. That was the first question. And only 1 in 10 of Native Americans we asked that question to said, in fact, that they were offended by the name.

CORNISH: Tell us a little more about what people had to say because I know that you guys actually did some follow-up calls to find out their opinions.

COX: We did, yeah. It was really fascinating. One of the more memorable people I talked to was a man by the name of Charles Moore (ph). He's a member of the Oneida tribe of Wisconsin, which is related to the New York Oneida tribe that has fought this. He's 73 years old. He's a physician. And he was somebody who said that he understood why people had an issue with the name, why they were offended by it, but that he didn't at all and that he looked at it as a very low priority, that among the things that Native Americans were struggling with, that was not anywhere near the top of his list. And he even argued that the National Football League has bigger problems than the name of this team. Others have said the same. I talked to a woman in North Dakota by the name of Barbara Bruce (ph). She's 70 years old, and she's been a teacher for four decades. And she said that she liked the name. She saw it as something to be proud of.

CORNISH: Reaction from the team owner Dan Snyder in a statement - he said, we're gratified by this overwhelming support from the Native American community, and the team will proudly carry the Redskins name. What do you make of that read of this poll?

COX: I think that's a stretch. We didn't ask people if they supported the name. Certainly in our anecdotal follow-up interviews, there were people who said they felt honored. Some people said that native imagery in sports at least represented them in some ways in a society where they often felt overlooked. But that was all anecdotal. I think to say that Native Americans support the name - that's not something, certainly, that our poll asked or found.

CORNISH: Critics of your survey say that it doesn't change the debate. And I want to get your opinion on that. I mean, what does this do? Is this suddenly a non-offensive term?

COX: I think that the debate won't end with this at all. I think that the people who've been working on this for decades are going to continue to fight. Suzan Harjo has been fighting this since the 1960s. I don't think she's going to stop, and nor do I think the Oneida Indian Nation or the National Congress of American Indians - I don't think any of those groups are going to stop. And they've - they've argued, too, that the dictionary defines this as a racial slur. And I've also, you know, heard people argue that, regardless of the number of Native Americans who are offended, they've said that well, isn't it enough that 1 in 10 are offended? That's certainly one of the arguments that they've made. So I don't expect the poll to end the debate.

CORNISH: John Woodrow Cox of The Washington Post, Thank you so much for speaking with us.

COX: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.