Local black sports fans are more likely to support the Redskins than white fans, according to a new Washington Post poll. One explanation: black respondents said they were more interested in the NFL than white respondents. Still, the loyalty contrasts to the Redskins’ tumultuous history with race; the team was the last in the league to integrate.
While the Redskins has overcome its past of racial segregation, some argue the franchise is still racist and far from deserving support. At issue: the team’s name, which has been protested as a slur for decades. A group of Native American activists filed a lawsuit in 1992 to force the renaming of the team. The case almost made its way to the highest court in the land, but in 2009, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Meanwhile, some college teams have voluntarily changed their Native American mascots.
The Redskins team remains one of the most profitable in the league, so the name retains a lot of brand value. And the franchise has to appeal to the black community in order to do well financially; more than 1.4 million African Americans live in the D.C.-area, making up 26 percent of the region’s population. Offending Native Americans, who only make up 0.4 percent of the metro area’s population, will never be as big of a concern for the franchise; they can’t hurt the team’s pocket book enough.