Etsy Bans 'Redskins' Items From Its Marketplace

Chris CrumeCommerce

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Even if you don't follow football, it's unlikely that you've not heard about the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins and its name and mascot. It's been controversial for years, but the argument has picked up major steam in recent months.

E-commerce marketplace Etsy just announced that it is no longer permitting sellers to list items with the name Redskins - a move that will no doubt stir up its own share of controversy.

Do you think Etsy is doing the right thing here? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The company points to two major catalysts that led to its decision. The first is this ad from the National Congress of American Indians:

"Native Americans call themselves many things," it says. "The one thing they don't..." Then it concludes with the image of a Washington Redskins football helmet and a football. It also includes the web address ChangeTheMascot.org.

The ad has been around since January, and is described on YouTube as the "#BigGame commercial the NFL would never air." It has over three million views. Here's what the campaigns Twitter account has been saying:


The campaign ran a radio ad in the Houston area as the Redskins went to town to play the Texans in week one.

The Change the Washington Mascot Campaign labels itself a "civil rights and human rights effort," and notes that, "Native American leaders and organizations, sports icons, school boards, city councils, state legislators, media organizations, civil rights groups, religious leaders, Members of Congress and the President of the United States have all said it is time for the Washington team to stop using a dictionary defined racial slur as its name."

The Oxford Dictionary labels the word "a term of disparagement."

Merriam-Webster cites it as "usually offensive."

Google's dictionary feature labels it "dated offensive," and shows an interesting graph showing its frequency of use over time, with it peaking in the late 1800s.

The campaign shares a "fact sheet," which includes points like: The U.S. Government Labels the R-Word A Racial Slur; The United Nations Says the Name is a Hurtful Reminder of Mistreatment; Social science research says the term has severe consequences; among others.

The second item Etsy points to is a decision by the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the team's trademarks.

"Following this decision, an increasing number of public figures, politicians, schools, news publications, and private companies have spoken out in protest of the name and mascot," says Bonnie Broeren, who manages Etsy's policy team. "Like the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, we at Etsy find the opinion of the minority group itself to carry most weight in determining whether the mascot is disparaging. In no uncertain terms, Native American groups have consistently advocated and litigated that the term 'redskin(s)' is disparaging and damaging to Native Americans. Therefore, it will no longer be permitted in our marketplace."

"We understand that fans wish to support their favorite football team, and we do not believe that fans who are attached to the mascot have any racist feeling or intent," she adds. "We also understand that some fans view the name and mascot as an homage to Native Americans, and we do not doubt their noble intent, but the fact remains that Native Americans themselves find the term unacceptable."

Etsy will continue to permit users to sell items that use the team's colors and location, but not with the name or logo. The policy goes into effect immediately.

The company is contacting sellers who are affected by the policy change, and there's a Help Center article with additional info here.

"Today we seek to balance two principles that are critically important to us: freedom of speech and protection from discrimination. Freedom of speech and expression is important to us because we are a community of artists, artisans, and curators of all backgrounds, aesthetics, and viewpoints. If you search our site, you will see a wide variety of items testifying to our diversity and our seemingly limitless creativity," says Broeren. "This freedom, however, is not without limits. In the past, we have taken actions to protect our community and to preserve our integrity as both a creative and an ethical space. We want Etsy to be safe, welcoming, and respectful for everyone, including artists, women, and minorities. For this reason, it has long been against our policies to allow content on our site that demeans people based upon race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation."

In the past, Etsy has apologized for enabling sellers to list t-shirts promoting rape and updated its policy on prohibited animal products to include restrictions for fur, pelts, ivory, teeth, bones, and taxidermy.

Etsy is already taking some flack for continuing to offer various items.

Etsy also currently offers an "Al Jolsen Vintage Promotional photo 8 x 10 Picture Blackface Persona":

The Washington Post is pointing to a poll from ESPN's Outside The Lines finding that 71% of Americans surveyed think the Redskins should keep their name, though as ESPN notes, those who think it should be changed rose nine percentage points within the last year. ESPN's NFL Nation also polled 286 NFL players, and found that 58% say the name should not be changed, while 42% say it should.

"The polling conducted for "Outside the Lines" showed no difference in attitude between men and women, or whites and non-whites," Bob Ley wrote on ESPN's website.

It will be interesting to see if any of Etsy's rivals follow its policy approach or take advantage of gaining new sellers who leave the service.

As of the time of this writing, there are still a number of items listed on Etsy, which use the name and/or logo.

Presumably stuff like this would still be acceptable under Etsy's new policy:

Do you believe Etsy made the right move with the policy change? Share your opinion here.

Images: Etsy, Google

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.