The NFL’s Least Favorite Super Bowl Ad

This ad first started making the rounds on my Facebook feed during Super Bowl XXXVIII a few years ago.  Stick with it all the way to the end for the payoff:

For those non-football fans out there, it’s an ad from the National Congress of American Indians protesting the team name Washington Redskins.  It seems to me that while not exactly the same idea, it’s relevant to our PSY 13 discussion about the influence of images and labels on our schemas about groups (in the Social Cognition, Part II lecture I talked about efforts to change the icon on handicapped parking signs).

Indeed, research indicates that seeing Native American logos and mascots makes attitudes about the group more negative, among Native Americans as well as others.  Here’s a quote from that story, one that should sound pretty similar to issues we’ve been discussing from Chapter 3: “…there is a disconnect between how people think about these issues consciously and unconsciously. So you can have very positive views about a team mascot like the Redskins, and genuinely and sincerely say you are supportive of the team and think about the mascot in a positive way. While, at an unconscious level, the mascot could be having negative effects on you and the people who are hearing you talk about those terms.”

Thoughts on the Native American mascot issue from a social psychological perspective? Other examples you can think of relevant to these issues of how images and labels change the way we think about certain people or groups?

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9 Responses to The NFL’s Least Favorite Super Bowl Ad

  1. Gideon Wulfsohn says:

    Watching this video with the headline “NFL’s Least Favorite Super Bowl Ad” I immediately approached it thinking that it would be a horribly put together production. Using the overused phrased that is “self fulfilled prophecy” to describe the way in which my mind was looking to tear apart the content and then proceeded to do just that I cannot help but make fun of the way they show relatively random frames accompanied by pithy descriptions. While the description you wrote to accompany the video clearly indicates that the ad was disliked because of what it was poking at rather than how it was formatted, I can’t help but step back and evaluate my slanted thought process as I consumed it.

    • I think your comment shines a very interesting light on this topic and this video. I have to say that I had a similar experience, and clicked on the link to the video clip already thinking that I was going to dislike it, and found myself waiting to discover the flaws that I had just read about. I’m curious how I would have reacted to and digested this same video, had I watched it without any previous knowledge or judgment of what was to come.

  2. Profile photo of bpastr01 bpastr01 says:

    I didn’t start to think critically about issues such as these until late in high school and college, as a function of where I was brought up. Though the Washington Redskins were never a team I personally paid attention to, I can’t help but think of many younger people or people who are not critically examining the team’s mascot who are forming subconscious schema connecting football (and perhaps traits like aggression) to Native Americans. I liked the ad a lot because it interestingly showed the differences between schemas and assumptions that non-Native American people might have and those that Native Americans have about their heritage and the pride they have in it. It is interesting to think about, because if the majority of your ideas about Native Americans come from the association with football, you most likely will not be thinking of a diverse group of people, with children, mothers, and fathers. Obviously, any community has these roles, but that is not the stereotype that the mascot sets up: it leads us to believe that a group of Native Americans might be aggressive or warriors, which may be the case for some members of their community, but obviously cannot describe an entire group of people from many different tribes and heritages. Like was described in lecture, these ideas can be consciously un-coupled with cognitive effort, but if someone isn’t putting in the effort or critical thinking, this could lead to prejudice and harmful stereotyping.

    • I agree with your assessment of this video. The primary intent of this ad was to denounce the Redskins mascot itself, but its secondary intent was to dismantle existing schemas about natives that the mascot perpetuates. It does this by introducing other schemas, i.e. our schemas about doctors, soldiers, etc. I have to wonder if the outrage over this ad was entirely about the connection people have to the mascot, or rather, if a part of it was due to a subconscious confliction of beliefs in the viewers. Either way, I think the video does a great job of illustrating how we cannot relegate an entire group of people to the narrow confines of society’s stereotypes.

  3. My high school’s– in San Francisco– mascot used to be the “Indians”, until it was changed in 1989 to the Cardinals. As a result of this, I was always very much aware of how the names we attribute to teams are appropriative, racist, or plain wrong. Specifically with the Redskins, it seems like a no brainer to me that the name should be changed. Yet, it still remains a name which people rally behind, and something which in my eyes will not change for a long time.

    Recently, an Asian American band went to the supreme court to defend their right to name their band The Slants. And they won, which in turn sets a precedent and makes it harder to for the DC team to change their name. They went to court because the trademark office refused to issue them a trademark over their name–it has rejected the Redskins petition to trademark their name as well. Whereas The Slants used this opportunity to reclaim a words which was often used to tease members during their schooling years, the Redskins is not a team managed by the indigenous people of North America, nor by a specific tribe called the Redskins. If they go to court over the lack of a trademark, it will be interesting to see how the court reacts to the outright appropriation of a culture by white folk.

    • Profile photo of Aubrey  Tan Aubrey Tan says:

      I think that you bring up a very interesting point here. When you spoke of the redskins I think of the NFL team, The Washington Redskins, which has received flak over the years for their use of a “derogatory” term for a professional football team. However, it is a controversial subject where some fans want to keep the name since it holds tradition and they push that argument where it isn’t meant to be racist or insulting to any minority group. I see both sides of argument but would changing the name of redskins really help native americans when funding other subsidiaries is probably more important. But it is thought provoking to know that an asian musical group were able to fight over their name the slants.

  4. I think in this case, it is important to look at the Redskin’s mascot in the greater context of what other football symbols/mascots/logos are. Within this I believe that the majority of these tend to be almost cartoon caricatures. Additionally, the football industry as a whole is at its core, part of the entertainment industry and thus the schema that develop around football logos and things associated with it understand these symbols to be part of this culture of exhibition and entertainment. This tremendously shallow approach is fundamentally incompatible with the reality of what a massive, tremendously diverse, and actually meaningful cultural/national/religious/traditional experience of Native Americans. I believe that it is this gap between the Redskins logo as it understood in the context of the American mainstream as a symbol of entertainment and thus one that in a way belongs to them and between real Native American narratives and all of the complexity that these narratives entail that is the source of a hatred or disdain that arises within our culture.

  5. swhite13 says:

    The Native American people as a whole are seldom talked about in mainstream media coverage. I was hoping the mascot debate would insight people to further look into the welfare of Native Americans. No one talks about the massive numbers of impoverished and unemployed, no one talks about the inadequate and underfunded healthcare system provided for the uninsured (Indian Health Services,) no one talks about the suicide epidemic for Native youth being more than double the national average of youths; there are so many issues that need to be recognized and addressed by our government. I believe the NCAI has been doing Natives a disservice by wasting resources since 2001 when it began to speak out against names such as “Washington Redskins.”

    Driving across the country last summer I visited multiple Indian Reservations. Many of the men I talked to really put into perspective for me how difficult it has been over the past decade to make strides in the right direction. Let us advocate for increased government funding for BIA and IHS.

    • While I completely agree with you on the attention the various health issues surrounding Native communities should receive I do not see the changing of the name as wasted resources exactly. As Eberhardt et al demonstrate in their studies associations are complex and deeply entrenched in the mind. With the redskins mascot associated to generally negative racial connotations wouldn’ t keeping the name strengthen these associations in the little exposure this community does receive to the general public?

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