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Local Indigenous Artist Showcases the Racism of Redskin

(c) Gregg Deal

(c) Gregg Deal

Those who think the continuing movement to change the name of the local pro football team is a waste of time and trivial were clearly not at the recent Art All Night event here in the District. Secreted in one corner of the venue was local Indigenous artist Gregg Deal. His project, “Redskin,” took on the racial overtones of the team moniker and projected it at his audience.

What he, nor spectators or his helpers predicted was just how pointed it ended up being.

Deal first let me know of the project in early September. What initially struck me about his proposed performance piece was the fact he was willingly subjecting himself to some serious abuse. Natives in the area–as well as those protesting football games elsewhere in the country–have always been subjected to abuses by team fans, especially if they’re open about their opposition to the name. (Witness the reactions by fans, as recalled by several Natives, during a recent taping for The Daily Show.)

So why do it, especially in an art venue? “As people of color, or more specifically, Indigenous people, we deal with something called microaggression. It’s the needle pricks in our general American society and culture that says or does things that are offensive to Natives. They’re called ‘microaggression’ because they are passive aggressive enough to get by your average person, but still aggressive,” said Deal. “For example, when I worked at the National Museum of American Indian in 2004-2005, someone asked me if I still lived in a Tipi. This would be microaggression because it’s an insane questions that is based on stereotypes, but it’s also a statement about what this person believes quantifies me as an Indigenous person.”

The term ‘redskin,’ painted faces and faux headdresses, drunken war chants – these are all examples of microaggression. Deal’s performance piece was meant to use all of these abuses, commonly found in tailgate parties at FedEx Field and used by team fans around the world, over an eight-hour period. “I ended up calling it after just over four hours,” said Deal. “All of us–my friends who were helping me and myself–were just mentally and psychologically drained from the experience.”

Bryce Huebner, an Associate Professor at Georgetown University, was one of Deal’s assistants who played a part of one of the abusive fans. “I said things that I would never say in real life, in hopes of making it clear how ugly and harmful the casual racism against indigenous people in the United States is,” he said. “I was struck by how difficult it was to start playing that role, when I arrived my heart was pounding and I could hardly speak; but more troubling by far was the fact that it became easy to continue as I started to play off of the other actors. There’s an important lesson there: if you surround yourself with people who espouse hostile attitudes, it’s much easier to adopt those attitudes yourself.”

Deal said a lot of the audience mentioned to him how truly real it felt, watching it unfold, and he agreed. “After it got rolling, the invective felt truly real, like a few situations I’ve found myself in around the District.” When I mentioned that a Huffington Post review said it was unauthentic because he had used his friends as the antagonists, Deal laughed. “They should’ve been in my place, then. It certainly felt real to me.”

Deal (seated) in the middle of his "Redskin" performance. (c) Darby

Deal (seated) in the middle of his “Redskin” performance. (c) Darby

Tara Houska, a board member of Not Your Mascots and a big proponent of the name change movement in the District, was one of the audience members. “The experience of watching Indigenous-based racism being hurled at a Native was difficult, to say the least,” she said. “Some of those phrases hit too close to home, and brought me back to moments in which I’ve experienced racism. At times, it was hard to keep in mind that it was a performance. I wanted to yell at the antagonizers to back off, and felt the hurt Gregg must have been feeling.”

Both Houska and Deal were also participants in the recent Daily Show segment that showed a panel of team fans and a panel of Indigenous people who, after separate discussions, confronted each other through the show’s direction. The segment has had mixed reaction in the press, with a lot of sympathy generated for the four white fans (who all self-identified as some fraction of various tribes, but with no real knowledge of their heritage – or, in one case, how generational fractions work). The incidents taped at FedEx field later between some of the Native panelists (specifically, the 1491s) and fans weren’t shown, which is unfortunate.

“Honestly, both the Daily Show and my art performance felt very similar,” said Deal. “The racism against Indigenous people in this country is so ingrained it it’s culture that the only way a team could exist as a mascot (which is defined as a clown, a court jester, by the way…nice ‘honor’) in the first place. The Washington Redskins–and other Indian mascots–are a really good illustration of not only how disconnected America is from it’s own history, but how disconnected it is from the issue of equality towards Indigenous people is. We are literally sitting on an issue where a significant amount of this country’s Indigenous are saying ‘it’s offensive’ and the answer is ‘no, it’s not offensive at all!’”

Gregg Deal with "Colonialism"

Gregg Deal with “A Nice Can of Colonialism”

Deal went on to say the whole movement to change the name isn’t really about offense, but about equality. “What you’re looking at is the tip of a very big iceberg of issues that are simply illustrated by this specific issue. The fact that we don’t seem to own our identity enough for someone to allow us to assert that identity appropriately, but that a corporate sports team is making billions from our image and likeness and has the audacity to fly it under the flag of honor is insanity,” he said. “Let’s be honest here, it’s not about honor, tradition, or any other lame excuse Dan or his constituents are saying. It’s about money, and the fans have all bought into supporting one of this country’s financial top one percent.”

Houska felt that Deal’s passion really came through in his performance piece, and she applauded him for taking a stand in such a public way. “I think it was a very in-your-face method to get locals aware that Natives experience racism, including the racist imagery and name of the Washington team,” she said. “We have all experienced being belittled and told to ‘get over it.’ I hope that people walked away with a sense of understanding that microaggression is a very real and damaging thing. And how it feels to be deluged by caricatured Natives via the Washington football team and having no say in it, despite being the subject of that caricature.”

Deal agreed. “I believe the term REDSKIN, if it belongs anywhere…it belongs to Indigenous people. In the same way the Black community essentially own the N-word,” he said. “While there are different schools of thought on that word and it’s usage in the Black community, it’s understood that if you use that word outside the Black community, you’re a certain type of person. The word ‘redskin’ belongs to us, and it’s not up to [non-Indigenous people] how it’s used.”

For more information on the name change social media movement, visit Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, Not Your Mascots, or follow the #changethename hashtag on Twitter.

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The Football Name Debate: Are We Missing the Point?

“The debate is over about the R-word; it’s now about whether if it’s proper to have a football team in this country carry on using a defined slur.” That was the closing statement by Jacqueline Pata, the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). Her comment capped off a forum at the Center for American Progress, Missing the Point: The Real Impact of Native Mascots and Team Names on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth. The Center released a new report that examined several bodies of research about the harmful impact of mascot representations on the self-esteem of AI/AN youth, how they create a hostile learning environment, and the decades-long movement to retire them. The report by Erik Stegman and Victoria Phillips looks at recent key findings and incorporates statements from several Native youths, providing context that is relevant today regarding the use of these mascots and imagery.

Sitting on today’s panel was Pata; Travis Waldron, Sports Reporter, ThinkProgress.org; Mark Macarro, Chairman, Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians; Dr. Michael Friedman, Clinical Psychologist; and Erik Stegman, Associate Director, Center for American Progress. The forum started with very poignant remarks by fifteen-year-old Dahkota Franklin Kicking Bear Brown, a student at Argonaut High School in California, and a Champion for Change at the Center for Native American Youth. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) also spoke briefly at the event.

Over the last year, the debate over the use of the slur by the Washington professional football team has largely centered on issues of economics and fan nostalgia. The larger issue at hand, however, is beyond the sports soundbites that dominate this discussion. Data and research now shows that the use of such racist and derogatory team names (and by association, ‘traditions’ and fan antics) have real and detrimental effects on Native youth today. With fifty percent of the Native population being of 25 years of age or younger, the danger of perpetuating this practice and continuing the cycle of defeatism, hostile learning environments, and poor self-esteem is all too real. Continue reading

Sports Fix, The Features

Nats Fall 7-2 to Cubs on Independence Day

A strong pitching performance from Chicago Cubs right-handed starter Jason Hammel stifled the Nationals’ attempt at a Fourth of July victory in Washington on Friday afternoon. Chicago beat Washington 7-2 and Nats right-handed starting pitcher Tanner Roark didn’t look quite as sharp as he had earlier this season.

Roark pitched seven innings while giving up four runs and one homerun on nine hits. He walked one batter and struck out five on 87 pitches (61 strikes). Chicago came swinging right out of the gate with a pair of singles off Roark to start the game. Leadoff man and outfielder Chris Coghlan scored on a ground out hit by Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo giving Chicago their early 1-0 lead.

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Nats Sweep Colorado with 4-3 Win Over Rockies

It was a hot and humid one in D.C. on Wednesday night but the Washington Nationals braved the swamp-like elements to complete a three game sweep of the Colorado Rockies with a 4-3 victory. Starting pitcher, right-hander Doug Fister had just one blemish on an otherwise efficient outing which came in the form of a three-run homerun in the second inning for the Rockies.

“[It] was a constant battle all night,” Fister said. “[The keys were] guys played defense. They came out and played well, sacrificed a lot whether it was diving or just sacrificing themselves to make a play. That was big.”

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Nats Beat Rockies 7-3 with Opening Day Lineup Back Intact

The  night was almost overshadowed by the fact that outfielder Bryce Harper was back in the Washington lineup for the first time since April  25 but, instead, a five-run rally in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies highlighted what the Nationals are capable of if their starting nine stay off the disabled list.

Washington faced rookie Rockies pitcher Yohan Flande in his second career start and struggled to make any offensive noise against him as they settled in during the early innings. On the other hand, the Nats’ starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann held command of the game while waiting for his team’s hitting to cut through somehow. Zimmermann threw six innings and gave up two runs on seven hits while striking out five and walking a batter. He threw 87 pitches and 60 strikes. Continue reading

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Nats Fall to Braves, Lose 3-0 in Series Opener

long drive home
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It was plain and simple at Nationals Park on Thursday night — the Atlanta Braves out hit the Washington Nationals to secure a 3-0 victory in game one of a very important four-game series in D.C. The two teams are currently fighting for the top spot in the National League East and not even a strong performance from right-handed starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann could slow down Atlanta.

Zimmermann pitched seven innings and gave up two runs on seven hits while striking out six batters and walking one on 97 pitches (64 strikes). The biggest blemish of the night for Zimmermann came in the fourth inning when a string of four consecutive one-out singles hit by the heart of the Braves’ batting order yielded two runs, thereby giving them a lead to hold onto for the duration of the night.

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Nats Fall 8-5 to Miami in the 10th

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perfect night for a game
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The Nationals suffered a tough 8-5 tenth inning loss in Washington on Wednesday against the Miami Marlins despite several opportunities to end the night with a win. Right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimermann started the night well enough by cruising through the first three innings. He gave up two hits in the first inning and faced 10 batters before the game broke open for Miami in the fourth.

Zimmermann lasted a total of five innings pitched and gave up four runs (three earned) and eight hits while walking one and striking out three on 80 pitches thrown (53 strikes). The fourth inning is when Miami did their greatest damage of the night to take the big 4-0 lead that would keep them ahead of Washington all evening.

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Cueto Can’t Stop The Nats, Washington Wins 9-4

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kindling debut
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What the Washington Nationals lacked in offensive support on Monday night, they more than made up for on Tuesday during right-handed pitcher Doug Fister’s D.C. debut with the team. The Nats beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-4 while celebrating a note-worthy night for many of the team’s players, including outfielder Jayson Werth’s birthday.

Fister’s home field debut went better than his initial season debut. The Nats’ newest arm acquired this off-season from Detroit threw seven innings and gave up six hits and two runs while walking one and striking out five batters. Fister threw 109 pitches and 72 strikes. Continue reading

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Nats Fall 4-3 To Cincinnati in 15 Innings Played

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Werth strikes out
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It was the first time the Washington Nationals’ right-handed starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg would face-off against his old Little League opponent and Cincinnati Reds right-handed pitcher Mike Leake, but at the end of the night that story wouldn’t be what folks remembered about Monday night. The Reds went on to beat the Nats 4-3 in a 4 hour 58 minute, 15-inning game that left all but four players on the two teams’ active rosters on the bench by the end.

The issue Strasburg faced in his seven innings pitched was a lack of run-support and lackluster defense from those backing him. Strasburg gave up six hits and two runs while striking out four and walking a batter on 96 pitches and 64 strikes. He also threw one wild pitch and hit two batters, which ended up hurting his performance the most.

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Gonzalez Lacks Command, Mets Beat Nats 5-2

Inconsistency and lack of command haunted the Washington Nationals’ left-handed starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez on Saturday while they faced the New York Mets in D.C. Gonzalez gave up seven hits, five runs, two walks, and one homerun threw 84 pitches (48 strikes) while striking out four in the Nats’ 5-2 loss to New York. Continue reading

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Roark Throws A Complete Game Shutout, Nats Beat Padres 4-0

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Argyle Field
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Washington Nationals right-handed starting pitcher Tanner Roark notched a career-first on Saturday afternoon when he threw a  three-hit complete game shutout to beat the San Diego Padres 4-0. Roark threw 105 pitches and 73 strikes while walking one batter and striking out eight as he led the Nats to their second win of the three game series.

An early offensive rally for Washington against the Padres’ right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner initiated the eventual win by putting the Nats up 3-0 in the first inning. After a leadoff fly out to right field hit by outfielder Denard Span, the next four Nats batters reached base.

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Former Nat Xavier Nady Lifts Padres over Nats in Extras

The Padres 4-3 twelve inning victory over the Nationals Thursday night ended in fitting fashion. Bryce Harper led off the bottom of the twelfth with a double. The Nats needed him to score in order to tie the game, but the Nationals had been unable to muster a single hit with runners in scoring position all evening, and they had plenty of opportunity with 16 hits and all. There Bryce Harper stood with the few fans left in the stands hoping the Nationals fortunes would change, but it was not to be as Jose Lobaton hit a liner that seemed ticketed for left field and a tie game, but Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera drifted back, caught the ball, and doubled Harper off second.

It was another frustrating night for the Nationals, and another game in which they did more to beat themselves than the other team. As anyone how many runs a team should score when they have sixteen hits in a ball game and it is doubtful their answer would be three, but that is what the Nationals scored. The Nationals offense is off to a good start to the season in most major category except they lead the NL in runners left on base and have trouble getting hits with runners in scoring position.

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Nats Rally in the Ninth to Beat Los Angeles 5-4

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Nationals Walk-Off Win Vs. Mets
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The Washington Nationals were left with two outs and down 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels when Wednesday night’s game took a positive turn. The Nats ended up beating the Angels 5-4 thanks to a walk-off RBI-single hit by first baseman Adam LaRoche sending outfielder Jayson Werth home as the go-ahead run.

Given how the rest of the night (and the series) went for Washington, that ninth inning was the turnaround they desperately needed to avoid a three-game sweep.

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Pujols Hits 500, Nats Fall to Angels

This was Albert Pujols night. In the first inning Taylor Jordan gave up a chalk line double to JB Schuck followed by an Anthony Rendon error on a Mike Trout ground ball. To the plate stepped Albert Pujols and after one swing he was one home run away from the magic number of 500 and the Nats were down 3-0. Taylor Jordan would allow one more run before the inning was over and would push the Nats total of first inning runs allowed to 25.

Of those 25 first inning runs 11 have been given up by Taylor Jordan who now looks like the pitcher who will be leaving town when Doug Fister returns to the rotation. Earlier today Fister threw his second simulated game and is scheduled for a rehab start in Potomac on Sunday. It isn’t an accident that he lines up with Taylor Jordan’s spot in the rotation and the Nats could use him back as soon as possible.

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Clippard Implodes, Nats Fall 4-2 to Angels

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36
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A game that was well-within the Washington Nationals’ grasp got away from them on Monday night during an eighth inning implosion from right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard allowing the Los Angeles Angels to win 4-2 in D.C.

Clippard’s 2/3 innings of work resulted in three hits, a walk, a strike out, and four unearned runs. Manager Matt Williams emphasized that he thinks Clippard is making quality pitches but he hasn’t found much consistency with his fast ball and couldn’t find his change-up either. Williams is confident that Clippard is still the Nats’ eighth inning man but with more outings like Monday night’s he’ll really have to start to find some consistency if possible. Continue reading

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Nats Beat The Cardinals 3-1 in a Friday Night Pitching Duel

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perfect night for a game
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The Washington Nationals secured a much needed 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night thanks to a strong pitching performance from left-handed starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and a few timely hits. The night’s victory helped snap the 8-0 losing skid between Washington and St. Louis, which dates back to 2012.

Gonzalez threw 101 pitches and 65 strikes against St. Louis over seven innings. The Cardinals managed four hits, one run, and a walk against the lefty but Gonzalez fought back with seven strike outs on the night. That strong outing was exactly what the Nats needed in order to fend off a hot-hitting and defensively sound Cardinals squad.

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Nats Get Shut Out 0-8 By The Cardinals and Wainwright

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DSC_8044
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The Washington Nationals’ struggles against top-tier teams in 2014 continued on Thursday night with a 0-8 loss at home against the St. Louis Cardinals. Right-handed pitcher Adam Wainwright held the Nats to just two hits in the complete game shutout at Nationals Park.

Washington’s right-handed starter Taylor Jordan had a shaky first inning which did not increase the Nats’ odds of finally beating a team they’ve dropped seven consecutive games to (eight counting last night). Jordan lasted five and a third innings and gave up seven hits and seven runs (five earned), walked two, struck out four, and hit a batter on 96 pitches (61 strikes).

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Nats Shutout the Marlins, Beating Miami 5-0

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Batting practice fisheye
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The Washington Nationals found themselves on the winning side of 5-0 game against the Miami Marlins Tuesday night thanks to a solid outing from left-handed starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and impressive offensive efforts from first baseman Adam LaRoche and third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Gonzalez threw 101 pitches, 61 strikes, over six innings and gave up three hits while walking two batters and striking out five to secure his second win of the season.

Washington scored early, taking a one-run lead in the first inning when LaRoche drove outfielder Jayson Werth home with two-out. Manager Matt Williams’ line-up failed to score again until the sixth inning, but that’s when things got interesting.

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Braves Hit Strasburg, Beat Nats 6-2

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Nats at Night
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The Washington Nationals failed to produce sufficient run support on Saturday night as the Atlanta Braves secured their fourth victory of the season with a 6-2 win at Nationals Park. Despite Washington’s best efforts with team ace Stephen Strasburg on the mound, the team’s offense struggled to score against Atlanta’s right-handed starter Julio Teheran.

Strasburg lasted 4.1 innings in his first D.C. start of the year. He gave up eight hits and six runs (three earned) while throwing 96 pitches (59 strikes). He also struck out six and walked three batters but a high pitch count early on prevented him from going any further.

The Nats managed to get a brief taste of offensive production with a two-run Adam LaRoche homer in the first inning, his second of the season, but that didn’t yield the long-term results Washington was hoping to achieve Saturday night. Washington didn’t maintain the lead long, though, and Atlanta came fighting back in the fourth inning when a pair of runs scored off a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error to tie it up at two runs each. Zimmerman was later removed from the evening’s game due to soreness and pain in his right shoulder. Continue reading