(Reuters) – Native American advocates launched an elaborate hoax on Wednesday, creating authentic-looking web pages of major media that purported to report that the National Football League’s Washington Redskins had changed their name to the Redhawks.
The campaign, led by a group called the Rising Hearts Coalition, created web pages that appeared strikingly similar to the real pages of those of The Washington Post, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report, plus one for the team itself with a new Redhawks logo.
Some Native Americans consider the Redskins name highly offensive and evocative of the genocide of North American tribes by American settlers of European descent.
“We created this action to show the NFL and the Washington Football franchise how easy, popular and powerful changing the name could be,” Rebecca Nagle of the Cherokee Nation said in a news release that identified her as “one of the organizers of the stunt.”
“What we’re asking for changes only four letters. Just four letters! Certainly the harm that the mascot does to Native Americans outweighs the very, very minor changes the franchise would need to make,” Nagle said.
All the online pages added disclaimers announcing the website as a parody and not endorsed by nor affiliated with sites they were imitating.
A Washington Post spokeswoman provided a link to the newspaper’s own report on the stunt, but declined to comment further.
U.S. President Donald Trump regularly derides the mainstream media as “fake news,” raising the stakes for news organizations that might be victims of a hoax.
The Redskins have long declined to change their name, saying their fans support keeping it.
A Washington Post poll released last year found 90 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the name, but a rival study by the Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at California State University, San Bernardino found 67 percent of Native Americans considered the name racist.
“This morning, the Redskins organization was made aware of fraudulent websites about our team name,” Tony Wyllie, the team’s senior vice president for communications, said in a statement. “The name of the team is the Washington Redskins and will remain that for the future.”
Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by David Gregorio