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Washington Redhawks

How a group of Native Americans pranked the Washington Redskins

Who are the Redhawks?

Dec 13, 2017, 4:09 pm*

Internet Culture


Jay Hathaway

Some Washington Redskins fans claim they’d still support their team if it changed its racist name. Others are adamant that owner Dan Snyder should stick to his guns, and have even threatened to boycott the team if it ever rebrands. How would fans react if they thought the Redskins were about to change their name to the less loaded, more dignified “Redhawks?” We found out Wednesday, thanks to a prank by Native American protesters.

A fake Redhawks website and a mock Sports Illustrated article announced the name change, and they quickly went viral in the way that much fake news does these days. It’s easy to miss the difference between the real and the bogus if you’re not looking carefully. There were fake Bleacher Report and ESPN articles, too. The elaborate “culture jam” fooled many.

redskins redhawks name change sports illustrated

How did fans take the alleged name change? Some were relieved, and said it made them realize how easy it would be to let “Redskins” go.

Others … not so much.

After letting the hoax run wild for a few hours, the people behind the Redhawks revealed themselves as the Rising Hearts Coalition, a group of Native protestors from several different tribes.

Although Rising Heart received a lot of praise for both the message and the clever execution of the prank, some refused to recognize it as activism, instead calling it “fake news.”

If you were wondering what culture jamming looks like in the era of Trump and “Fake News,” this is it. The same tools conservative click farms and enterprising Macedonian teens use to make money can also be used as a political statement. In the fraught, highly competitive attention economy that social media has created, protestors are going to use all the tools at their disposal. If we’ve learned anything from Trump’s election, it’s that this stuff works.

Will it work on Dan Snyder, though? He’s made it abundantly clear that he wouldn’t care if the majority of his fans wanted to see the name changed, or if the name put a new stadium at risk. But at least it showed current Washington fans that another way forward is possible, and that the world wouldn’t end if they found out their team’s name had changed.

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*First Published: Dec 13, 2017, 4:03 pm