It all started to prove a point. It ended with more than $125,000 in scholarship money. An intramural basketball team at the University of Northern Colorado in 2002 renamed its squad ‘The Fightin’ Whites’ (it was eventually changed to Fightin’ Whities) simply to make a statement. When local activists failed to persuade a nearby high school to change its mascot and name ‘Fightin’ Reds,’ intramural basketball players at Northern Colorado decided to make a satirical protest of their own.
Washington Redskins name change coming
After 87 years of being called the Washington Redskins, the team is making a nickname change. The change is about to happen because of public pressure and financial threats. Team owner Daniel Snyder had stated for years that the name of the team would never change.
Money talks, however, as FedEx, which owns the stadium’s naming rights, threatened to pull out of the deal if the name wasn’t changed. Nike removed all Redskins gear from its site. Amazon was also to do the same thing with any Redskins products. Snyder agreed to make a change.
The Redskins name has been dropped, but as new name has yet to be announced. The apparent holdup is a trademark issue. According to Yahoo! Sports, a Virginia man named Philip Martin McCaulay has trademarked many of the potential names that would suit the Redskins. With the Washington team dragging its feet to find a new name, McCaulay apparently swooped in. He trademarked a number of names, forcing Washington to pay him for the rights.
Fightin’ Whites name emerges in 2002
When locals were trying to have the nickname Easton High School in Greeley, Colorado, changed, it stirred up some debate back in 2002. Easton was nicknamed the Fightin’ Reds and there was a move to try and get the school to change. That’s when members of the University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team decided to put a little spin on their own team’s nickname.
Solomon Little Owl, a team member who also directed the university’s Native American Student Services, said his teammates, made up of a variety of races, wanted to “do something that will let people see the other side of what it’s like to be a mascot,” according to seattlepi.com. They changed their nickname from Native Pride to The Fightin’ Whites (it was reported a typo at some point changed the name to Whities). The change resulted in some intense media coverage. The Greeley Tribute‘s web site crashed when the story collected more than 29,000 hits instead of its usual 200.
According to tolerance.org, the team was inundated with requests for t-shirts, hats, and other items after the name change. “We never really thought anything would become of it,” said Jeff Van Irwarden, then a senior on the basketball team and manager of the T-shirt campaign. “We just wanted to send a message to Eaton by doing the same thing they had done. But it really went beyond anything we could have ever expected.”
Fightin’ Whites raise $125K in scholarships for Native Americans
Internet sales went through the roof on The Fightin’ Whities merchandise which bore the logo of a smiling white man. More than $125,000 was raised which was to be used as scholarships for Native American students at Northern Colorado.
“We were just trying to send a message at first,” Van Irwarden said, according to tolerance.org. “But when the media calls starting coming and we saw that people wanted to get shirts and were willing to pay money for them, we decided to put together the T-shirt campaign and the scholarship foundation.” The team even added the phrase “Fighting the use of Native American stereotypes” to its merchandise in order to discourage the use of the shirts by white supremacists.
The Fightin’ Whities drew attention across the country and drew praise from some activists fighting against racial mascots. “They are really doing a good job of making a point,” said Jen Tayabji, a former student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “They’re getting a lot of attention and getting people who might not have been interested in the issue to start thinking about it.” Tayabji was a member of the university’s Progressive Resource Action Cooperative, which was spearheading its own movement against UIUC’s mascot, Chief Illiniwek.