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Pro: Superintendents, sports fans say team names honor tribes

By Melissa Crowe
Oct. 20, 2013 at 5:20 a.m.


As a Redskins fan since childhood, Dr. Philip Suarez can't imagine the team going by any other name and doesn't think it should.

"I'm offended that people are offended by the term Redskins," Suarez, a Victoria resident, said. "It is not a racial slur."

In a letter to fans, the team's owner, Dan Snyder, defended his decision not to change the team's 80-year-old name.

"It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride and respect - the same values we know guide Native Americans. ..." Snyder wrote. "I've listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name. But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans, too."

The first time Suarez heard about the name debate, he thought it was a joke.

The issue is "so opposite to what people are trying to portray that it's comical," he said. "We've taken a term and a fact and turned it into a negative, dirty, horrible thing."

Suarez, a "fanatic" Redskins fan, said just because something has the word "skin" in it, doesn't make it racist.

"As I was growing up, it ... was nothing but positive," Suarez said. "Our culture has gotten to the point where every single itsy bitsy thing can be turned offensive by somebody."

In the Crossroads area, the Shiner Comanches and Gonzales Apaches take pride in their teams.

Shiner Superintendent Trey Lawrence said the school is not about to drop its mascot.

"I don't think the term 'Comanche' is offensive," Lawrence said. "I think they were a proud tribe and very historical in the state of Texas."

Annenberg Public Policy Center polled nearly 1,000 self-identified Native Americans from across the country and found that 90 percent of Native Americans did not find the team name "Washington Redskins" to be "offensive," the team's owner wrote in his letter to fans.

As far as the Shiner team ever being an issue with Native American rights groups, the superintendent said he hasn't heard of any.

"I got a letter from a Comanche Indian who talked about how proud he was of our school using the name as the mascot and what we represented," Lawrence said.

The message came during one of the school's state championship runs.

Kim Strozier, superintendent of Gonzales school district, said in an email that the district is "honored to be known as the 'Mighty Apaches,'" a name that is as old as the Washington Redskins team.

When describing the team, she uses words like "honor" and "determination."

"Today, the 'Mighty Apache' work together as a team, supporting each other and protecting, conducting themselves with honor for their name, meeting any competition or challenge with strong determination to play fair and fearlessly, whether it is in academics or sports," Strozier said.

Con: Derogatory mascots harm Native American identity

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