News & Politics

Poll Finds Most People Would Not Call Someone a "Redskin," but Say It’s Fine as an NFL Team Name

Chalk it up to "fan blindness."

Photograph by Flickr user Kevin Coles.

The latest poll about whether people think Washington’s NFL team should change its name to something that isn’t a dictionary-defined racial slur showed, once again, that a vast majority does not, even though most people would not use the word “redskin” in conversation with Native Americans.

The survey, conducted in August by business research firm ORC International, was sponsored by the Oneida Indian Nation, a New York tribe that has been leading a campaign against the Washington team’s name, and goodness Mfg., the advertising agency that created the “Proud to Be” commercial that aired during the NBA Finals in June. While four out of five of the 1,020 people surveyed said they would not call a Native American a “redskin,” 72 percent are comfortable with the football team of the same name. The survey attributes this split to “fan blindness.”

“Fans are clinging to the mascot because of blind loyalty even though they feel that ‘redskin’ is an offensive term,” the study reads.

The poll also found significant generational gaps surrounding the term’s perceived offensiveness. Half of respondents between 18 and 34 years old said the word was offensive without being reminded that major dictionaries define it as a derogatory term, compared to 34 percent of people 35 and older. But reading a dictionary does not move public opinion about the NFL team that much; only 13 percent of respondents informed of the defintion of “redskin” changed their minds about whether the Washington franchise should get a new identity.

“Our study proves how important context is to behavior,” D’nae Kingsley, goodness Mfg.’s head of integrated strategy, says in a press release. “On one hand, group mentality makes people think using the r-word is okay. But on the other hand, when a person comes face to face with a Native American, it’s not.”

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.