WASHINGTON — Controversy over the Redskins’ team name has sparked new life with a powerful youth movement.
Sidwell Friends School, the private institution attended by President Barack Obama’s daughters, has barred students from wearing on its property any clothing displaying the team’s name or logo.
According to Washingtonian, Head of School Bryan Garman announced the updated dress code policy in his year-end letter
“Our student government passed a resolution stating that the mascot of the District’s National Football League team is offensive and antithetical to the values of the community,” Garman wrote.
This comes after the school’s student government proposed the change in April, following a visit from Native American writer and activist Gyasi Ross several months earlier, of which the students wrote:
Gyasi Ross illuminated the offensive nature of the Washington Football Team’s name. Our Quaker values of equality and community compel us to amplify the voices of the Native American community. The dress code states that “children may not wear clothing with messages or images on clothing that conflict with the School’s values.” Thus, we have reached the consensus that Washington Football Team apparel (i.e. clothing with the team’s logo or official name, as long as it contains the word “Redskins”) is in direct violation of our dress code, and should be enforced like any other violation.
According to a transcript of Ross’s address, at one point a student had asked about the intent behind the name, saying it represents a “long and proud sports tradition” to supporters of the team name, and changing it might represent “turning their backs on a storied franchise.”
“I don’t think they’ve won any Super Bowls in a long time, so I’m not sure about this ‘long and storied tradition,'” Gyasi quipped.
“Folks are looking for a subjective stance, [but] we need to use objective standards,” he said. “We say, ‘we’re going to ask every single Native American to see if they subjectively feel offense at this word.’ We’re asking the wrong question.”
A Washington Post poll released this spring found that nine in ten Native Americans are not offended by the name. Many public opponents of the name have since softened their activism in light of those findings.
The students of Sidwell Friends School do not appear to have been assuaged.