Should Redskins change their name? New Mexico says ‘meh’

NICKNAME CONTROVERSY: Critics want the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name but a poll in a state with a large number of Native Americans shows support for the nickname.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico has one of the largest number of Native Americans of any state, but a recent poll showed most people in the Land of Enchantment aren’t demanding the NFL’s Washington Redskins change their nickname.

In a flash poll of more than 500 registered voters in New Mexico published by the Albuquerque Journal, 71 percent said they wanted the Redskins to keep their nickname, 18 percent wanted the team to change it and 11 percent weren’t sure:

“I was surprised,” said Brian Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling, Inc. “I just assumed in New Mexico it wouldn’t mirror the nation because of our large majority-minority population, but that was not the case.”

According to the 2010 census, New Mexico has the second-largest percentage of Native Americans in the United States with 9.4 percent. Only Alaska, with 14.8 percent, had a higher proportion of those with American Indian or Native descent.

Sanderoff said the poll about the Redskins nickname was conducted July 10 and the survey approximated the percentage of Native Americans in the state. In fact, Sanderoff said there were “no statistically significant differences” among Hispanics, whites and Native Americans in the results.

State Rep. Sandra Jeff, D-Crownpoint, a member of the Navajo Nation, told New Mexico Watchdog she wasn’t surprised by the poll.

“I think our foremost concerns should be about economic development, our economic welfare,” Jeff said Monday. “We have high unemployment, high poverty. Let’s fix those problems first.”

“That’s probably true,” said state Sen. Benny Shendo Jr., D-Jemez Pueblo who said the nickname is racist. “The Redskins name is pretty far down on the list of things we need to change. It’s not really on people’s radar.”

This spring the Navajo Nation Council, on a 9-2 vote, passed a measure formally opposing the NFL franchise using the name.

“I think the actions of our council clearly show that (members) recognize the negative impacts such derogatory names cause for our people and also for Indian country,” councilman Joshua Lavar Butler told the Indian Country Today Media Network after the vote.

“Some people are concerned about (the nickname) and they say, ‘Hey, that belongs to Native Americans,’” said Jeff. “And then you have those who are Redskins fans, who say, ‘Hey, it’s good that we have the Redskins and their logo.’”

“There are a lot of Native folks who are Redskins fans, which is surprising,” Shendo said.

In fact, Red Mesa High School of the Navajo Nation uses the nickname “Redskins.”

Activists have been calling on Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the team’s name. Last month, the U.S.Patent and Trademark Office stripped the trademark status of “Redskins,” ruling the name wasn’t entitled to legal protection.

The office did the same thing in 1999, but the team fought and won in court. The team vows it will fight the current ruling, as well. The decision doesn’t prevent the team from using the nickname, but it would prevent it from challenging anyone else who used it.

Snyder has called the team name “a badger of honor” and has vowed he will never change it.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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