After murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans at the hands of police, the United States continues to reckon with its history of racism and the remnants of it that remain commonplace in American society.
Two of those remnants are frequently seen in the most eagerly consumed sport in the United States: football.
The Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians both rely on slurs and racist portrayals of indigenous people as a form of branding. "Redskin" is a slur for indigenous Americans and the Cleveland Indians' mascot was a grotesque caricature of an indigenous tribal leader. The Indians officially retired the mascot last year, but many of the team's fans still brandish the image.
After a period of uncharacteristic silence regarding these potential changes, President Donald Trump finally weighed in on Twitter.
They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled spor… https://t.co/SLNSU1mhhD— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1594059196.0
The President accused the teams of "changing their names in order to be politically correct," before singling out Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the White presidential candidate who lied or deeply embellished her indigenous heritage on college applications in her youth.
And while Trump may think the names and mascots evoke strength, these mascots rarely if ever acknowledge the immense cultural diversity of indigenous tribes in the United States. Rather than focusing on the indigenous contributions to medicine, agriculture, theology, and sports themselves, these brands paint indigenous people as indiscriminately violent and barbaric—a centuries old trope historically used to justify genocide.
People were quick to rebuke Trump's racist tweet.
Idk why you think Warren is from India, or why Indian people would care, but as a Native American I 100% support ch… https://t.co/e3r9COX8bg— Chris °Azor Ahai° Headley (@Chris °Azor Ahai° Headley)1594065477.0
@realDonaldTrump Listen up, you wannabe Grand Wizard. Washington’s NFL team name is literally a racial slur. Rename… https://t.co/A9gHjMDxGa— Adam Best (@Adam Best)1594060995.0
@realDonaldTrump As a native american I can say if that should be considered a compliment I'm all for renaming t… https://t.co/DEgvHgTK8P— BoRIKUASoUL (@BoRIKUASoUL)1594060875.0
@realDonaldTrump Being a racist is not strong, it's weak and stupid.— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben)1594059792.0
@realDonaldTrump The name "Redskin" was a derogatory term white man used to call native Americans. It's not out of strength.— Barney's Nose (@Barney's Nose)1594059433.0
@realDonaldTrump The President of the United States of America is a disgusting racist. 🤡 #TrumpIsARacist— Jules Morgan (@Jules Morgan)1594059265.0
Nor did people think Trump was an example of strength.
@realDonaldTrump If they’re named after strength, we can, at least, be sure neither team will be the trumps.— 30-50 Feral ANTIFA Opossums (@30-50 Feral ANTIFA Opossums)1594067092.0
@realDonaldTrump Is racism literally the only plank left in your platform?— Brian Snyder (@Brian Snyder)1594059223.0
@realDonaldTrump It's like you're clutching the football and running full speed into the wrong end zone.— TrumpsTaxes (@TrumpsTaxes)1594060272.0
Trump's tweet came hours after he demanded an apology from Bubba Wallace—NASCAR's only Black driver—falsely claiming that the investigation of a noose placed in Wallace's garage was a "hoax."