Story at a glance

  • The Washington NFL team announced that it would change its name after years of protest from Indigenous people who say the name was racist.
  • The president of the Navajo Nation applauded the change and suggested another: the “Code Talkers.”
  • After criticism that the name was again offensive, Navajo President Jonathan Nez took back his suggestion.

In a nod to their own history, the Navajo Nation nominated “Code Talkers” as a new name for the Washington football team, after ownership announced that they would retire the former team name and logo on Monday. But after criticism that the suggestion once again reduced Indigenous people to a mascot, Navajo President Jonathan Nez is now walking that back. 

“The Navajo Nation, under this administration, will not pursue the renaming of the Washington NFL team after the Code Talkers. I strongly agree that our Indigenous people should not be used as mascots,” Nez said in a statement. 


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The turnaround came hours after a proposal that Nez said intended to honor members of the Navajo nation and other indigenous tribes that served in the Marine Corps during World War I and II as communications specialists, using their native languages to pass messages. More than 12,000 Native Americans served, about 400 of whom were recruited as Code Talkers, fighting in Europe, North Africa and the Pacific Islands. 

“We strongly encourage the NFL Washington organization to rename their team in such a way that truly honors and respects the First Americans of this country. Renaming the team ‘Code Talkers’ to honor the Navajo Code Talkers, and other tribal nations who used their sacred language to help win World War II, would set the team on a path to restoring its reputation and correcting the historical misrepresentation of Indigenous peoples," Nez said in the original statement. 

But some Indigenous people voiced opposition to the proposal, saying that the team should avoid any name with indigenous associations.

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In their announcement, the team said owner Dan Snyder and Coach Ron Rivera were working to develop a new name and logo, but has revealed no further details of the process. But that hasn’t stopped fans from weighing in online.  


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Published on Jul 15, 2020