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Logo of the Washington Redskins. (Getty)

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The history and origins of the Washington Redskins' name

The Washington Redskins are reportedly going to change their name but do you know why they're called that way in the first place? 

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Logo of the Washington Redskins. (Getty)

Logo of the Washington Redskins. (Getty)

The 5-time NFL champions Washington Redskins hold a rich history. You can't talk about the National Football League without naming the capital's team plenty of times.

Sonny Jurgensen, Sammy Baugh, Darrell Green, Joe Gibbs, Sam Huff, Art Monk, are just a handful of names you'll often hear about when discussing the golden years of this franchise, although they've also had their fair share of struggles.

Moreover, it seems like everything that has happened, happens, and will happen in the gridiron isn't as important anymore as what the franchise actually stands for.

FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins. (Getty)

For years, there's been an ongoing battle regarding the racially-insensitive name of the franchise, a matter of plenty of controversies. While some claim that the name should be changed to something more politically correct, others believe it's actually a sign of respect for Native Americans.

Whatever the case may be, that's not for us to decide and we won't get into that matter. However, with their imminent change of name, we'll go through its history to unveil the truth as to why the Redskins are really called that way.

But, what does 'Redskin' even mean, and why some consider it offensive?

Well, Native Americans have been trying to take down racial stereotypes for ages. They've been portrayed as savages, ignorants, and casino owners, and they feel that the name and logo of this NFL franchise perpetuates that stereotype.

English conquerors referred to all Native Americans as 'redskins' to separate them from whites and blacks, and while there's some evidence that Pre-Columbian tribes used a similar term to describe themselves, it became offensive as years went by and those communities were forced to relocate.

In fact, media and government officials even offered bounties for every 'redskin' that was sent to purgatory in 1863, and the term was used with a negative connotation to slur Native Americans, up to the point where the dictionary even adds the words "Often insulting" next to it.

Native American communities have been fighting for this name change for three decades now. Ironically, the team's logo was designed by Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, the chairman of Blackfeet Nation and president of the National Congress of American Indians. 

He was reportedly very proud of the fact that an Indian Chief was on the team's helmet but it feels like the rest of his community don't share the same views.

From Braves to Redskins

For starters, this franchise wasn't always called that way. In fact, it wasn't even always located in Washington. This team was born as the Boston Braves in 1932 but his name was called to Boston Redskins next season. It wasn't until 1936 that they moved to the nation's capital.

The team was originally named Boston Braves because they played on Braves Field. They later changed to Redskins in an attempt to win more fans when they moved to Fenway Park, but the city wasn't that into football at the time, so they had to relocate.

Team owner George Preston Marshall reportedly changed the name to 'avoid confusion' with the homonymous baseball team and retain Native American imagery of the team, while also trying to pay respect to coach William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz. Notably, Dietz claimed to be a Native American but he was exposed by Indian Country Today Media Network as a white man in 2004.

“So much confusion has been caused by our football team wearing the same name as the National League baseball club that a change appeared to be absolutely necessary. The fact that we have in our head coach Lone Star Dietz, an Indian, together with several Indian players, has not, as may be suspected, inspired me to select the name Redskins. Besides my coach, I’ve got half a dozen Indian players signed up (on the Redskins). And I’m going to have them wearing Indian war bonnets, and blankets, and everything," Marshall told the Associated Press back in 1936.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Up to this day, Redskins' owners still claimed the name was a way to honor the tribal communities, but after years of controversies, the backlash from sponsors and the social uprise of the past couple of months, this narrative has finally come to an end.

Hopefully, it'll also bring more success in the gridiron, as the franchise hasn't made the playoffs since 2015 and hasn't won a Super Bowl since 1991.

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