A Native American activist group has claimed responsibility for an online hoax deceiving people into believing the Washington Redskins had changed their name to the “Redhawks.”
On Wednesday, Facebook and Twitter were flooded with users sharing stories from what appeared to be legitimate news outlets, bearing the names of sports media titans like Bleacher Report, ESPN, The Washington Post and Sports Illustrated.
A sampling of the headlines being shared:
*Native Leaders Celebrate a Victory as Washington Football Changes Mascot to the Redhawks
*Dan Snyder honors Native Americans, changes team mascot to Washington Redhawks
*Washington Redskins Will Change Name to Washington Redhawks
The websites were very thorough in replicating the designs of the sites they were mimicking, mirroring color schemes, layouts, and even linking off to the actual websites with real-life headlines on sidebar columns.
All of this made the hoax very believable. The dead giveaway — which social media users could easily miss by simply reading the headline while scanning their feeds — were the URLs.
Sportsillustrated.news, bleacherreport.news and washpostsports.com are most certainly not URLs belonging to Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and The Washington Post.
The hoax spread so wide, so fast, the Redskins felt compelled to publicly acknowledge it, issuing a statement Wednesday to inform their fans they had not, actually, changed their name to the “Redhawks.”
Moments later, the activist group behind the hoax — Rising Hearts — revealed their deception. From their press release:
After decades of team owner Dan Snyder refusing to change the name of the Washington football team, Native advocates took to the internet to do it for him. Today, social media exploded with an updated logo and mascot for DC’s football team: The Washington Redhawks. The activists behind the online action, Rising Hearts, are hosting an in-person press conference in DC this Thursday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m. at the George Preston Marshall Monument in front of RFK Stadium. Supporters can join also join a rally at FedEx Field this Sunday.
In the first three hours of the #GoRedhawks campaign, social media exploded the with the hoax, with The Washington Times and USA Today calling it out. Native leader Peggy Flannagan shared on Twitter, “Y’all the Washington Football team has not changed their name… Keep that brief moment of joy you had upon reading the news to keep fighting against their racist mascot.”
“We created this action to show the NFL and the Washington Football franchise how easy, popular and powerful changing the name could be,” says Rebecca Nagle (Cherokee Nation), an organizer of the publicity stunt. “What we’re asking for changes only four letters. Just four letters! Certainly the harm that the mascot does to Native Americans outweighs the very, very minor changes the franchise would need to make.”