COMMENTARY: Could the new face of the $20 bill impact certain team names?

Amanda Gonzalez

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By 2020, the $20 bill will have a new face, as anti-slavery heroine Harriet Tubman will replace U.S. President Andrew Jackson, who is widely remembered for spearheading the relocation of Native American tribes in the “Trail of Tears” during the 1830s.

While some people see this monetary change as symbolically progressive, others — like presidential candidate Donald J. Trump — see Jackson’s defacement as “pure political correctness.”

Whether or not you support this monetary change, sports fans have to wonder if professional teams named after Native American tribes will soon undergo similar changes.

Most sport organizations across any professional league in the U.S. choose their team names based on something tied to their region. Since Native Americans were the first ones on this land, it makes sense for their tribes and legacy to be spread throughout the nation.

However, the name that has been receiving the most backlash over the past decade is the NFL’s Washington Redskins, which is seen as a racial slur.

In 2013, representatives of the Native American tribe Oneida Indian Nation launched a “Change the Mascot” campaign, which built momentum, and received comment from President Barack Obama.

Obama said in an interview with the Associated Press, if he were the owner of the Redskins and he knew the name was “offending a sizable group of people,” then he would “think about changing it.”

Washington’s owner Dan Snyder has repeatedly refused to make changes to the mascot, despite fighting a federal trademark lawsuit and a proposed bill to cancel trademark registrations that use the name “Redskins.”

Initially supporting the football team’s controversial mascot, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell changed his stance a month later, saying “I want all of us to go out and make sure we’re listening to our fans, listening to people of a different view, and making sure that we continue to do what’s right to make sure that team represents the strong tradition and history that it has for so many years.”

As a precaution, sports journalists are often told to write “Atlanta” and “Cleveland,” instead of the “Braves” and “Indians”; and “Kansas City,” rather than the “Chiefs.” In hockey, it’s “Chicago,” not the “Blackhawks.” However, these teams seem to have the blessing of Native American tribes, while “the Redskins” team name comes across as a demeaning stereotype.

But what about those who helped relocate the Native Americans? Since we’re mentioning Indians, we have to talk about the Cowboys.

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The (Dallas) Cowboys of the Wild West are culturized as English-speaking ranchers who lived by the idea of “Manifest Destiny,” while the Texas Rangers were known for protecting settlers on the frontier from Native American raids. Could these team names, and what they represent, also be seen as offensive?

While I agree with the decision to honor Tubman over Jackson, I can see how this change has the potential to turn into a costly slippery slope for certain professional teams.

Jackson will still be featured on the back of the $20 bill alongside an image of the White House, according to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. Since he wasn’t removed completely, this foreshadows that team names could remain as they are. Only time will tell.