Poll finds widespread support for Redskins name

Washington's NFL team name comes under fire.
Associated Press
May 3, 2013


It's been a rough offseason for the Washington Redskins, and not just because of the knee injury to star quarterback Robert Griffin III.

The team's nickname has faced a new barrage of criticism for being offensive to Native Americans. Local leaders and pundits have called for a name change. Opponents have launched a legal challenge intended to deny the team federal trademark protection. A bill introduced in Congress in March would do the same, though it appears unlikely to pass.

But a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows that nationally, "Redskins" still enjoys wide support. Nearly four in five Americans don't think the team should change its name, the survey found. Only 11 percent think it should be changed, while 8 percent weren't sure and 2 percent didn't answer.

Although 79 percent favor keeping the name, that does represent a 10 percentage point drop from the last national poll on the subject, conducted in 1992 by The Washington Post and ABC News just before the team won its most recent Super Bowl. Then, 89 percent said the name should not be changed, and 7 percent said it should.

The AP-GfK poll was conducted from April 11-15. It included interviews with 1,004 adults on both land lines and cellphones. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Several poll respondents told The AP that they did not consider the name offensive and cited tradition in arguing that it shouldn't change.

"That's who they've been forever. That's who they're known as," said Sarah Lee, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mom from Osceola, Ind. "I think we as a people make race out to be a bigger issue than it is."

But those who think the name should be changed say the word is obviously derogatory.

"With everything that Native Americans have gone through in this country, to have a sports team named the Redskins — come on, now. It's bad," said Pamela Rogal, 56, a writer from Boston. "Much farther down the road, we're going to look back on this and say, 'Are you serious? Did they really call them the Washington Redskins?' It's a no-brainer."

Among football fans, 11 percent said the name should be changed — the same as among non-fans. Among nonwhite football fans, 18 percent said it should change, about double the percentage of white football fans who oppose the name.

A Redskins spokesman declined to comment on the poll's findings or to make team executives available for interviews. But the team highlighted the poll on its website, calling it "good news" for its fans while using the opportunity to needle the archrival Dallas Cowboys.

"While much of the world has changed over the last three decades, the loyal support for the Washington Redskins remains unwavering," the website said. "It is also suspected that at least 50 percent of those in dissent are Dallas Cowboys fans."

In Washington, debate over the name has increased in recent months. In February, the National Museum of the American Indian held a daylong symposium on the use of Indian mascots by sports teams. Museum Director Kevin Gover, of the Pawnee Nation, said the word "redskin" was "the equivalent of the n-word."

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray, a Democrat, suggested that the team would have to consider changing the name if it wanted to play its home games in the city again. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the district in Congress, said she's a fan of the team but avoids saying "Redskins." Just this week, a D.C. councilmember introduced a resolution calling for a name change, and it appears to have enough support to pass, although the council has no power over the team.

"We need to get rid of it," said longtime local news anchor Jim Vance in a commentary that aired in February. Vance, of WRC-TV, revealed that he has avoided using the name on the air for the past few years.

Other media outlets have done the same. The Washington City Paper substitutes the name "Pigskins," and DCist.com announced in February that it would avoid using the name in print. The Kansas City Star also has a policy against printing "Redskins."

In March, a three-judge panel heard arguments from a group of five Native American petitioners that the team shouldn't have federal trademark protection, which could force owner Daniel Snyder into a change by weakening him financially. A decision isn't expected for up to a year, and the Redskins are sure to appeal if it doesn't go their way. A similar case, ultimately won by the team, was filed in 1992 and needed 17 years to go through the legal system before the Supreme Court declined to intervene.

Susan Shown Harjo, a plaintiff in that case, said the poll results were "irrelevant" because popular opinion shouldn't decide the issue.

"This is a really good example of why you never put racism up to a popular vote, because racism will win every time," she said. "It's not up to the offending class to say what offends the offended."

Several poll respondents told AP that they were unaware of the ongoing debate.

"If we're going to say that 'Redskins' is an offensive term, like the n-word or something like that, I haven't heard that," said David Black, 38, a football fan from Edmond, Okla., who doesn't think a change is necessary.

George Strange, 52, of Jacksonville, Fla., who feels the name should change, said people might change their minds if they become more educated about the word and its history.

"My opinion, as I've gotten older, has changed. When I was younger, it was not a big deal. I can't get past the fact that it's a racial slur," Strange said. "I do have friends that are Redskins fans and ... they can't step aside and just look at it from a different perspective."

There's precedent for a Washington team changing its name because of cultural sensitivities. The late Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin decided the nickname was inappropriate because of its association with urban violence, and in 1997, the NBA team was rechristened the Wizards.

Other professional sports teams have Native American nicknames, including the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and baseball's Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians. But former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, who is Native American, said "Redskins" is much worse because of its origins and its use in connection with bounties on Indians.

"There's a derogatory name for every ethnic group in America, and we shouldn't be using those words," Campbell said, adding that many people don't realize how offensive the word is. "We probably haven't gotten our message out as well as it should be gotten out."

American Indians make up 1 percent of the population, according to Census figures.

Numerous colleges and universities have changed names that reference Native Americans. St. John's changed its mascot from the Redmen to the Red Storm, Marquette is now the Golden Eagles instead of the Warriors and Stanford switched from the Indians to the Cardinal.

Synder, however, has been adamant that the name should not change, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he supports the team's stance. General Manager Bruce Allen said in March that the team isn't considering a new name.

Following the symposium at the museum, the team posted a series of articles on its official website that spotlighted some of the U.S. high schools that use the nickname Redskins.

"There is nothing that we feel is offensive," Allen said. "And we're proud of our history."


AP Sports Writer Joseph White, AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.


Follow Ben Nuckols on Twitter at https://twitter.com/APBenNuckols .



The questions and answers from the poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com



Now The Rest of...

The PC police again in action, politicians in Washington with one of the highest crime rates and schools that are failing has this on their agenda?
Whats next the Fighting Irish, aren't they offended. Everyone is looking for an excuse to be offended or a victim.


2cents's picture

Have you noticed that in DC our so called leaders have been jumping to every new agenda that pops up that week. This is terrible leadership in my eyes. Screw the PC people, get a life I say.

Raoul Duke

The Washington Screwheads


If they were renamed the Washington Whites, they'd probably be sued for discrimination. :)

The Fightin' Whites:



Getting the teams name changed would be the one thing that they would brag about in the next election. Not reducing crime, reducing the welfare numbers, bettering the cities education level, or reducing the poverty in D.C. Oh No, they have to put their efforts on the changing the teams name. I had always thought the team was named after the great "Red Stag Deer". I hate being called a "Buckeye" whick is a worthless nut. We had more Buckeyes than true Ohioians in the last election. I can only guess that many people are no longer proud of their Heritage. I don't know about other Holidays but on St. Patrick's Day it seems everyone wants to be "Irish".


The Buckeye a worthless nut?! Where are you from?! LOL! You ever been hit in the head with one still in it's shell? It hurts just like the football team. Besides folklore is that a buckeye is good luck! Don't go to Columbus Ohio talking like that! LOL!

Señor Clown

Case in point, and the mentality that is to be expected of someone with the chosen username of OH-IO.


Duh! It's only fitting due to the fact that I was born and raised here. No clowns allowed. Your welcome to take to the state up north.


Re-name them the "Washington Terrorists". Then everyone could bring bombs to the games instead of hatchets. Have all the politicians attend.

your master

Smokem peace pipe Redskins own name for many moons make new name firewater fighters strong like bull on peyote


I wrote a thesis on this subject, more specifically for college sports who were forced to change their names, except teams such as Florida State who have backing by the Seminole tribe itself. The opinion should be decided by people of that background. That may sound unfair, but how would many people, including myself, feel if the Browns changed their name to the Cleveland Blackskins? Teams like the Fighting Sioux have also gathered most of the tribes support. Many natives do not despise names like the Indians or the Blackhawks, but Redskins especially by a city that holds the capital of a nation that slaughtered many and pushed them off of their land is not something they approve of.

voice of fremont

I also have done a lot of research on this topic for a college diversity class. I agree with you to a certain point. I feel that the people should decide themselves if they approve of the name of the team. Which you have provided great examples of. The problem with the redskin name is that it could be used to describe a whole race. In which the powerful influential people might disagree with the name choice, but if you surveyed the whole population it may not provide the same answer. Overall this name will be changed if it offends the right people instead of the American Indian race as a whole.


American Indian? How about American native if ya wanna go so damn PC. I went back to college after working 30 + years. I cannot believe the product our high schools are putting out. The only reason they were called Indians is because C. Columbus thought he sailed around the world and landed on the coast of India. So, in all reality the native Americans can't really be upset over that freakin' name.

Señor Clown

I absolutely must agree with you on the point that the product of our public education system is disappointing, to say the least. Nearly everyone I've spoken with that has continued their education after a time in the workforce has had the same reaction. It particularly stings when you get a property tax bill and see what percentage of that money is going to the school district. Granted, we were all likely young and dumb at one point, and some of us have just gotten older, but it seems that the sole admission standard for college is a dollar sign with a number after it.


The Browns were named after their first and greatest coach, Paul Brown. Good thesis, without a clue.

Good thing I wasn't your instructor in that class because you'd have failed on that thesis alone.


So wiseman thinks everyone with a grievance axe to grind should have veto power over the First Amendment......so much for his wisdom.

Now The Rest of...

If injuns are don't likem name, buy team with wampum and change to Washington Paleface.... That was sarcasm for the liberals.. Washington Redskins are one of the most profitable for sales of their merchandise in the NFL, as are the Cleveland Indians with Chief Wahoo for MLB... Heep good profit... Are these the same native Americans getting rich with their casinos that are effected?


If anybody can come up with anything that doesn't offend somebody, please let me know.

Señor Clown

I find that challenge offensive, but agree nonetheless.


Now the Rest of,
All 4 major sports have shared revenue. You buy a Brown's Jersey, Houston, Atlanta, etc. all recieve the same amount as Cleveland. That's why all the teams wanted the Browns to change their name when they came back.


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