After facing pressure in the media and from activist groups, the Washington Redskins announced plans to change the team’s name and logo. However, the Native American tribe that designed the logo say it wasn’t offensive. In fact, they say the logo evoked a sense of pride.
The franchised used the nickname, Redskins, since 1933. And since 1971, the Washington Redskins’ logo has been an Indian Chief. Native American Walter “Blackie” Wetzel” designed the logo to depict a member of the Blackfeet tribe, according to WUSA9.
Wetzel grew up in Montana on the Blackfeet Reservation. Later in his life, Wetzel became president of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C. He spearheaded efforts to change the Redskins original “R” logo to the most recent one of a Native American.
In designing the logo, Wetzel used a picture of Blackfeet Chief, John “Two Guns” White Calf. The Blackfeet Chief also appears on the Buffalo Nickel.
Washington Redskins Logo Designer’s Son Speaks Out
Wetzel’s son, Lance, spoke out about the change of the logo design. “Everyone was pretty upset (about the change),” Lance said. “Everyone understood the name change we were all on board with that. Once they weren’t going to use the logo, it was hard. It takes away from the Native Americans. When I see that logo, I take pride in it. You look at the depiction of the Redskins logo and it’s of a true Native American. I always felt it was representing my people.”
Lance says the logo served as a reminder about the indigenous people of the country. “The Native Americans were forgotten people,” he said. “That logo, lets people know these people exist. If it were changed and it removed any derogatory feelings toward any person, then I think it’s a win. I don’t want that logo to be associated in a negative way, ever.”
Team Owner, Daniel Snyder, Releases Statement about Logo and Name Changes
Redskins owner, Daniel Snyder, released a statement on July 3 about the upcoming changes. “Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review,’’ Snyder said.
Snyder and the franchise hope to honor the team’s history and also avoid any negative feelings about the new name. It will “take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League, and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Snyder says.
While Wetzel didn’t take offense to the logo, many Native Americans did. Suzan Shown Harjo, a Native American activist, voiced her displeasure with the name and logo. “This day of the retirement of the r-word slur and stereotypical logo belongs to all those Native families,” Harjo said.
She calls the change a win for those who “bore the brunt of and carry the scars from the epithets, beatings, death threats and other emotional and physical brutalities resulting from all the ‘Native’ sports names and images that cause harm and injury to actual Native people,” she told The New York Times.