More on Mascots: The Sooners, Lord Jeff, Your $20 Bill, and a Surprising Twist on Redsk*ns

On this day in history, March 2, 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed one of numerous  “Indian Appropriations Acts.” That sounds like a good thing for American Indians, where the federal government appropriates money to live up to the terms of its various treaties. In this case, the bill opened up nearly 3,000 square miles of Unassigned Land in Indian Territory for white settlement.

The Unassigned Lands in 1855.
The Unassigned Lands in 1885.

So what is the connection between this event in history and mascots? The name for the Oklahoma University mascot — the “Sooners” — comes from those settlers who went into the “Unassigned Lands” sooner than was legal — before the land was officially opened for settlement. They got in first and staked out the best land.

There is a complicated history here. It includes the Creek Indians getting caught up in the wash of the U.S. Civil War. The Creek were not unanimous in their support of either side of the conflict, but one Creek Council did sign a treaty with the Confederacy. According to Wikipedia, when the Confederacy lost, the United States forced the Creeks into a new treaty in 1866. Under its terms, the Creeks agreed to cede a portion of the lands they held in Indian Territory. The Seminoles, who actively supported the Confederacy, were forced into a similar treaty that ceded all of their lands in Indian Territory. Together, this ceded territory became the “Unassigned Lands.” The Creek treaty stated the United States planned to use the land to relocate other Indians and freed slaves. In the following years, white settlers pressured the government to open the land for settlement.

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U.K. Lawmakers to NFL: Nix the Redsk*ns London Game, and Other Weekend Reading

Weekend News Wrap

U.K. Leaders Oppose NFL Plans to Have the Redsk*ns Play in London

The International Business Times and other media outlets have reported that two British Members of Parliament have told the NFL they oppose plans to have the Washington Redsk*ns play a game Oct. 30 in London. They told “NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that they don’t want a team named after a racial slur playing at Wembley Stadium,” the story said. Labor Party MP’s Ruth Smeeth and Ian Austin wrote Godell Feb. 2. Continue reading

Unpacking the Redsk*ns Trademark Challenge

The legal fight to stop the Washington Redsk*ns from using their offensive moniker has created an interesting paper trail — putting a price on the value of the racist name and illuminating how the powerful use their power to defend the status quo. It is a case that raises First Amendment issues and could ultimately put it before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here is a quick case summary: In June, 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trade Office ruled that the Redsk*ns name was offensive to and disparaged Native Americans, a violation of the Lanham Act. The Redsk*ns trademark remains in effect during the current appeal process. In July, 2015, a federal judge upheld the Patent Office’s decision to revoke the trademark. Pro Football appealed again, and now the case is before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Here are a few takeaways from the various legal briefs:

The racist brand is worth millions and millions of dollars: The Pro Football brief estimated the Washington team’s value at $2.4 billion as of August 2014. Of that, the Redsk*ns brand contributes approximately $214 million. Continue reading