Photo Essay: Change the Name: No Honor in Racism Protest at the 49ers-Washington game

More than 500 Native American demonstrators and allies marched and rallied near Levi’s stadium Sunday, Nov. 23, to stand against the Washington professional football team’s team name, which is a racial slur, and their mascot during the game against the San Francisco 49ers. Read my story.

As was covered in Esquire, the origins of the Washington team name are rooted in the genocide that affected Native American tribes across North America. In Northern California, where the genocide was most recent and by some accounts the bloodiest, those wounds are still healing (and sometimes torn open constantly), and many demonstrators made the connection between mascots and the dehumanization that was used in California’s attempts to exterminate Indian people.

The fact Washington was playing the 49ers only made the game more evocative of historical atrocities as gold miners were guilty of some of the most vile and rapacious massacres of the era. To many at the “Change the Name: No Honor in Racism” protest, the cultural normalization of racial slurs and stereotypical caricatures in sports is connected to the suppression of this history.

From my story:

“I think changing the name, as well as acknowledging the true history of the gold rush, provides the same psychological challenge to people: It’s hard to admit the white-washed history of American exceptionalism [that] we’re taught isn’t the full story,” said California State University Sacramento History Professor Brendan Lindsay, whose recent book Murder State delves into the historical records of the Gold Rush genocide.



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André P. Cramblit, Operations Director at Northern California Indian Development Council, smudges with sage before the march and protest at the Ulitac Natural Area in Santa Clara, an Ohlone village site and burial ground.

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More than 100 demonstrators marched to Levi’s stadium in Santa Clara Nov. 23 to protest the Washington professional football team’s mascot and name, which they all said is a slur referring to Native American scalps that were turned in for cash. In California, this was common practice during the Gold Rush era.

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The march and protest was organized by several Northern California and national grassroots organizations including American Indian Movement-West, Bay Area Coalition Against Racism in Sports, Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, and Indian People Organizing for Change.

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After marchers met up with other demonstrators at the Santa Clara Civic Center, a few hundred yards from the stadium, there was dancing, drumming and singing, including these Ohlone men – Gregg Castro (left), Wicahpiluta Candeleria (second from left), Anthony Sol (right).


A demonstrator who only wished to be identified as “Jane Redsk@n” provides a visceral visual of the origins of the Washington team name – a bloody scalp that was turned in for bounties.

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Many demonstrators lined the street that led to the stadium and confronted Washington football fans about their’s team use of a slur and racist mascot. Here Laura Cedillo (AIM-West) and Jose Cuellar (Lipan Apache/Huastec/Kickapoo) urge the fans to support changing the name.


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Most Washington football fans ignored the demonstrators, but some openly antagonized or insulted them. In addition to flipping them the bird, Washington fans also yelled “Get a job!” “You don’t even look Indian!” and “The name will never change! Put it in caps,” quoting Dan Snyder.

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Many Native children participate in the rally, and many of the Washington fans’ more abrasive behavior and statements were uttered in their direction or in front of them.

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