Washington Redskins helmets on the sideline
Washington Redskins will review their name, team says
01:52 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

As America confronts racism more directly, sports teams with Native American names, mascots or logos are facing pressure to change away from ethnic stereotypes and caricatures.

Native American leaders have long criticized sports teams for relying on racist caricatures, stereotypes or, in the case of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, an ethnic slur.

“If the leagues want to offer more than empty words in service of their profits, if they really want to live by the values they claim to have, they must ban Native mascots, team names, insensitive gestures and the subsequent racist behavior of fans,” wrote Crystal Echo Hawk, founder and executive director of the native-led nonprofit organization IllumiNative.

The Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians have already pledged to reexamine their names, but they are not the only teams facing similar issues. Here’s a look at the sports teams who may decide to make changes soon.

Washington Redskins

The NFL's Washington Redskins are reviewing their name.

The NFL’s Washington Redskins announced on Friday they will review their name, long denounced by Native American groups as an ethnic slur and a derogatory reference to skin color.

“In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of (its) name,” they said in a statement. “This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.”

“This issue is of personal importance to me and I look forward to working closely with (team owner) Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our Military,” said head coach Ron Rivera.

The review, and likely name change, is a long time coming.

Once known as the Boston Braves, founder George Preston Marshall changed the team’s name to “Redskins” in 1933 to avoid confusion with baseball’s Boston Braves.

Efforts to change the name date at least as far back as 1971-72, as The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg has documented. Native American groups have consistently pushed the team to change its name, including in protests in 1992, lawsuits in 1999 and 2009. In 2013, amid renewed calls for a name change, owner Dan Snyder told USA Today he would “never” do so.

Last month, the team removed Marshall’s name from a facade in FedEx Field. Additionally, a monument to Marshall was removed from outside the Redskins’ former home, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.

Marshall was well known for opposing integration of the NFL and didn’t sign an African American to the roster until 1962 – 16 years after the league started signing Black players.

Kansas City Chiefs

Kansas City Chiefs fan yells during the AFC Championship game against the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium on January 19, 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas City’s team was originally named after a White man who impersonated Native American culture.

Vincent Schilling, a Mohawk journalist who has covered sports and writes on Native American culture, said the name started with the Boy Scouts’ honor society Tribe of Mic-O-Say, which was created by Harold Roe Bartle in 1925.

Bartle was not Native American, but he went by the name “Chief Lone Bear” or just “Chief” in his Mic-O-Say organization.

Bartle later became the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, and helped convince Lamar Hunt, the owner of the Dallas Texans football team, to bring the team to Kansas City. The name “Chiefs” was chosen in Bartle’s honor.

Over the years, the team has taken on the stereotyped actions and costumes of Native Americans. Fans sometimes perform a tomahawk chop or wear feathered headdresses. In the 1970s and 80s, the team’s mascot was a man in a ceremonial Native American outfit atop a horse named Warpaint.

The mascot has since been retired in favor of an anthropomorphic wolf. Still, the team opens each game with a cheerleader riding a horse named Warpaint, while hitting a giant, native-style drum embellished with the team’s logo, an arrowhead.

Cleveland Indians

On Friday, the MLB’s Cleveland Indians said they were taking a look at the path forward for its team name.

“We have had ongoing discussions organizationally on these issues. The recent social unrest in our community and our country has only underscored the need for us to keep improving as an organization on issues of social justice,” the team said.

“With that in mind, we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”

Cleveland previously removed its “Chief Wahoo” l