O’odham Territory (Glendale, Arizona) – Our group Arizona to Rally Against Native Mascots (Az Rally) held a successful rally and ad campaign to protest the Washington NFL team coming to O’odham territory (Phoenix, Az) on 9/9/18. We sponsored four large digital billboards which featured powerful photos of actual Native people with slogan, “We Are Indigenous, Not Redsk*ns”. This gained a lot of attention and buzz on social media. The billboards wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Oneida Nation. Inspiration came from the Michigan Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media who last month put up an anti-reds*ns billboard in Paw Paw, MI to protest the local high school’s use of they r-word. You can support their continued efforts to keep their billboard funded here.
In addition to the successful billboards, we celebrated a monumental moment at the rally where a Washington fan turned his jersey inside out to stand in solidarity with Native people. Similar support occurred last year when Az Rally protested in Tongva territory (Los Angeles), but to capture it on camera was incredible. That video should be used as a tool to show Washington football fans that solidarity is an option. It’s ok to support your team, while also calling for the retirement of the Washington team’s racist name and logo.
In addition, present at the game were Washington Re-brand fans. Floriann Blackhorse, a supporter of the rally reported about certain Washington fans who had no slur name or logo on their jerseys. Many of them had only “Washington football” on their clothing. She reported that these fans stopped by the rally, listened to the speakers, and engaged in respectful dialogue.
Furthermore, Debbie Nez-Manuel, another support of the rally, reported she talked with a fan wearing a fake long draping headdress and educated him about cultural appropriation. This caused him to take off the headdress in support of the cause.
These successes are only a few we’ve heard of and I’m sure there are more out there. We believe that like-minded fans have the power to make big changes because they can actually see past their own needs and actually listen to Native people. Seeing more and more like-minded fans is a refreshing change from the typical vulgar and aggressive fans.
Moving forward, we call upon the Arizona Cardinals to eventually ban the use of red-face and headdresses during these games, or at least put a disclaimer out to fans that such attire is offensive and is discouraged. There is no reason why the Arizona Cardinals couldn’t enforce such policy given they are on O’odham territory and they exist within a state, which is home to 22 Native Nations. I’ve recently reached out to the Arizona Cardinals and requested a meeting to talk about informing fans that wearing headdress and red face is not appropriate. Mr. Pererra called me back days before the game and stated he would consult with his team and get back to our group.
It was a different story at the rally. We were very shocked at how the Arizona Cardinals security and the Glendale Police Department responded to Native people. They essentially found and dealt with protestors who went into the game (with paid tickets) holding signs and banners with anti-redsk*ns speech. These protestors were immediately kicked out, and their banners and signs trashed. We know the Cardinals have the capacity to address behaviors they see unfit. According to their Code of Conduct on their website, “Obscene or indecent clothing not appropriate in a public setting” and “Fighting, taunting, making threatening or offensive remarks including to players, officials or opposing fans” are prohibited. They have the capacity to protect players, opposing fans and anyone in the stadium from “obscene” and “threatening” messaging but yet they focused specifically on censoring actual Native people and not non-Natives playing Indian and mocking us.
Throughout this rally, we’ve also found that the Glendale PD was more aggressive than ever before. We were continually being yelled at for simply standing on public sidewalks, but meanwhile, the police officers were pictured shaking hands and high-fiving Washington fans wearing headdresses and mocking Native protestors. This is a form of agitating Native people and encouraging Washington fans to further agitate Native people. One officer called us a “bunch of children”, because of our civil disobedience. We feel the Glendale PD and the Az Cardinals security want “good Indians”, who play the mascot role, not Native people who stand up for who they are. Natives who stand up for themselves are called children and treated aggressively. That plays directly into the dehumanization of our people.
At the rally, we did not ask for permission to be Indigenous on Indigenous land. We marched forward onto “private property” and were pushed back by the Az Cardinal’s security and the Glendale PD but with the help of community leaders, we stood our ground at the front line and refused to leave as demanded.
Our group and supporters are strong Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, who find immense pride in who we are, in our cultures, in our tribes, in our lineage, and in protecting our indigeneity. We were so brave to withstand the 107 degree heat to show the world that we are Indigenous and not mascots and/or redsk*ns. Speakers at the rally ranged from community leaders, O’odham leaders, spiritual leaders, youth, and human rights advocates. We rallied against Native mascots, but we also rallied to support Colin Kaepernick. We kneeled in solidarity with Kaepernick, who stood against US imperialism and police brutality.
I am very proud of our people for pushing the barrier and standing up for what we believe in. We will always remember that day, the day we went toe to toe with the Cardinals and the PD, and the day we stood our ground on O’odham territory. We will not be silent, we will not be obedient, we will protest until the name and logo have been retired!
-Amanda Blackhorse and Az Rally Members