Nepean Redskins football team’s name offensive, says complaint to Ontario Human Rights Tribunal

Steve Mertl
Capacete Washington Redskins
Capacete Washington Redskins. Essa é a equipe do QB RGIII, sensação da NFL

A suburban Ottawa minor football team is under the gun to change its name because an aboriginal man finds it offensive.

Ian Campeau, an Ojibway, has filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against the Nepean Redskins football club. He wants the team's name and Indian-head logo to go.

Campeau said in a news release he is filing the discrimination complaint on behalf of his five-year-old daughter.

"The players call each other 'redskins' on the field," said Ian Campeau, who is a member of the DJ group A Tribe Called Red.

"How are they going to differentiate the playing field from the school yard? What's going to stop them from calling my daughter a redskin in the school yard? That's as offensive as using the n-word."

Campeau also wants the tribunal to order the National Capital Amateur Football Association, which includes other teams using the name Redskins at various levels, to make the same change. He's not seeking financial damages, the release said.

Campeau said modern dictionary definitions of the word redskin label it as offensive, CTV News reported.

"I'm not a redskin. I'm not an Indian," he said. "I'm Ojibway from Nipissing First Nations, specifically. So it's robbing us of our nationalities as First Nation people."

CTV News said it could not get a comment from the Redskins club, which was known as the Barrhaven Buccaneers until 1981.

In the past, the club has said it would have to raise $125,000 to do a name change. Campeau said he would be satisfied with a five-year phase-in period for a new name.

"I've offered to volunteer DJ and to help raise funds to offset costs, as have other artists and musicians, as the uniforms have to be replaced every year or two anyway," he said in his release.

Campeau previously was successful in getting Ottawa's new pro basketball team to drop plans to call themselves the Tomahawks, going with Skyhawks instead, CTV News said.

[ Related: Ottawa TomaHawks pro basketball team drops controversial name in fewer than 12 hours ]

He also wants the tribunal to order the Ontario Human Rights Commission to come up with a policy on the use of indigenous identities and imagery in sports.

The use of aboriginal names and imagery in sports has been controversial for decades. The Nepean club's NFL namesake, the Washington Redskins, have resisted pressure to change their name.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently defended the name as the embodiment of "strength, courage, pride and respect," NewsChannel3 noted in a feature on controversial sports team names.

Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians still use aboriginal images, including Cleveland's leering warrior, in their marketing. However, ESPN reported the Braves abandoned plans to use the teams"screaming Indian" logo for its batting-practice cap this season.

Wikipedia's list of sports teams using aboriginal names is pretty long and, of course, includes the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos.

Junior Hockey features two teams named the Chiefs (Spokane of the WHL and Chilliwack, B.C. of the BCHL), and lacrosse has plenty, though to be fair several are First Nations clubs.

CBC News noted the U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association banned the use of aboriginal names and symbols a decade ago, except for the Florida State Seminoles, who got consent from the Seminole First Nation.

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The issue isn't limited to First Nations-linked names. A backlash developed against the name London Rippers for the Ontario city's minor-league baseball club. Its logo features a sinister-looking guy that suggests the infamous 19th-century London (England) serial killer.

"When you have a name 'The Rippers' and a top-hatted man named Jack, it's very easy to put together the connection to Jack the Ripper," Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre, told CBC Sports back in 2011.

Team president David Martin dismissed the criticism, saying the name is just a play on words, as the word "rip" is a baseball term.

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