Those who thought Washington’s NFL franchise actually made a good decision were quickly thwarted on Wednesday when fake stories about the team changing its nickname were circulated on social media.
According to the reports, the team was changing its name to “Redhawks” according to some slickly Photoshopped news items from various sites that circulated on social media.
Expecting a franchise that can’t even maintain a playable grass field to make a socially conscious decision to stop deriding the continent’s first human inhabitants seems like a bit of a stretch, but the goal of many Native and First Nations activists appeared achieved until eagle-eyed Internet denizens spotted some problems with the photos being passed off as legitimate.
First of all, no links were provided to these stories and none of the URLs were correct. But on Twitter, the plot is fairly clever. It seems like the group even spoofed some URLs so that they appear to link to news outlets while on Twitter, only to redirect to the group’s website once you click through.
The group’s Twitter page is now retweeting coverage of the hoax itself, so the veil has been lifted a bit. Still, the team was forced to release a statement saying the team is not changing its name on Twitter as the story spread.
The wording of the statement, particularly the “for the future” part of their commitment to the name, is actually a slight softening of their stance, which in the past has used the word “never” when broaching the subject of a potential name change. It still affirms, however, that the team has no plans to change the nickname.
Still, in recent years there’s been a subtle but significant change to the language around the nickname debate that’s being had in communities across the country. Any kind of major pressure is unlikely to come from inside the NFL, but the social pressure from outside the league has certainly changed. I mean, it was even a significant plot line on a television show in 2017. That kind of attention was certainly proof of concept for the hoax, as the group behind the Photoshops released a statement later Wednesday explaining why they intentionally duped a good portion of Twitter.
The logic here is actually pretty sound as many celebrated the name change, which seems inevitable if you believe the moral arc of the universe does generally bend toward justice. Dan Snyder and his football team seem adamant that its nickname honors Native Americans rather than denigrates them, but the logic is tough to follow.
Who knows what the future holds, or how long Dan Synder’s “future” will last for the team’s current nickname. But one thing is clear: The debate over what the team is called won’t end until they finally pick something else to go by.