As people showed their support for George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement on Tuesday by posting a blank, black photo and the BlackOutTuesday hashtag on social media, the Washington Redskins joined other major sports teams by tweeting the same.
However, this opened up the age-old discussion about the team’s name. New York City Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded to the tweet, slamming the team for maintaining its name despite claiming to stand for justice.
She wrote: "Want to really stand for racial justice? Change your name."
AOC is not the first to call out the team, as in the late 1960s Native American groups began looking for ways to end harmful stereotypical representations of Native Americans, especially in sports. According to The Washington Post’s detailed timeline, activists in the early 1970s called for the team to drop its name or change its mascot.
These efforts seemed to die down in the 1980s, but picked up in earnest when the Redskins made it to Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis in 1991.
Approximately 3,000 demonstrators showed up to protest the name, and later that year, a petition was filed by a Native American group asking for the removal of the team’s nickname from trademark.
A federal appeals board concluded that the petitioners were right, but the team filed an appeal. The board maintained that the team’s name belittled Native Americans.
However, a poll conducted in 2004 showed that nine percent of 768 self-identified Indians were offended by the name. The team’s owner, Zack Snyder, still uses these results to defend the brand and organization.
A number of lawsuits have been filed against the Washington Redskins, but this has not shifted the organization’s stance. In 2013, Snyder stated that he would never change the organization’s name.
U.S. senators and representatives have threatened lawsuits to force the team's name change, with President Barack Obama supporting the called for a different name in 2013.
Obama stated: "If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team—even if it had a storied history—that was offending a sizeable group of people, I'd think about changing it."
AOC’s comments on Tuesday are part of the latest comments in five decades to challenge the team’s name. The comment racked up almost 200,000 likes in an hour, but whether this leads to any change is yet to be seen.