Native advocates stage clever Redskins name change hoax

This is a case where you absolutely have to give the devil his due.

A Native American advocacy group has been circulating fake stories on social media depicting major sports media outlets announcing that the Washington Redskins were changing their name to the "Washington Redhawks."

Great care was taken in designing a webpage that exactly duplicates pages from the Washington Post, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and others.

There's an elaborate hoax going around about the Washington Redskins changing their name to the Redhawks. Someone made fake WaPo, ESPN, SI and Bleacher Report pages for it (the urls are all wrong)

 –  Eric Morrow (@morroweric) December 13, 2017

USA Today:

page designed to look like an exact replica of the Washington Post declared "Native Leaders Celebrate a Victory as Washington Football Changes Mascot to the Redhawks," but a closer look at the site's URL reveals that it's not a genuine article. Similar fabrications representing Sports Illustrated, ESPN and Bleacher Report articles have also been circulating around social media.

The group responsible for the hoax also launched a rebranded team website,

The copy announcing the name change is scathingly brilliant:

On December 13th, The Washington football team franchise announced an updated team name and logo, coming Fall 2018.

The WASHINGTON REDHAWKS is a team EVERYONE can cheer for. The Franchise is proud to be a leader in bringing people together in the DMV and in our country during a time of growing divisions.

The updated "Washington Redhawks" was inspired by team owner Dan Snyder's deep admiration for Native Americans. "It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect – the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans."

The hawk was chosen to represent the strength, speed and courage of the Washington Redhawks' players. The iconic yellow circle, burgundy and gold were kept to commemorate the enduring legacy of the Washington football team.

"Everything people love about our team is still there. Football is about the players, it's about the touchdowns, it's about those exciting moments we all remember forever. Washington Football has always been about our loyal fans, who have rooted us on for 85 years. YOU are Washington football. This is still your team," says Head Coach Jay Gruden.

The attention to detail on the fake news sites is astonishing.  Here's some copy from the fake Washington Post site:

So far the reaction of fans has been mixed. Ian Washburn found out about the change like everyone else, while reading his Facebook news feed. Washburn was a third generation season ticket holder until in 2014 he stopped attending games at FedEx field in protest of the team's former name.

"I have been a Washington football fan my entire life and, wow, I feel like I can once again be proud of my team. Redhawks is a name I can cheer for," said Washburn. "There will always be those die-hard fans that will hate any change, but I think most of us are relieved. Other fans have woken up to find out their beloved team has moved to a different city. All that's changed here is four letters."

While the team's official statement gives no word about the final impetus for the change, some are speculating it may be linked to the team's desire for a new stadium. Both D.C. Council member David Grosso and Maryland Delegate David Moon publicly opposed taxpayer money going towards a stadium under the old name. The franchise has made it known they want a stadium with a downtown location with more amenities for fans.

I agree with owner Snyder that there is much to be said for tradition and continuity in a civic symbol like the Redskins.  I also think that if one chooses to be offended by a name that even some Native Americans referred to themselves as, it will be easy enough to be offended.

But this hoax was a massive effort with incredible attention to detail and a sly, if not good-natured dig at the Redskins organization.  The team issued a statement on the hoax:

Statement from the Washington #Redskins

 –  Washington Redskins (@Redskins) December 13, 2017

Congratulations to the Rising Hearts Coalition on a brilliant parody.

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