Fake articles were made to look like the real Washington Post, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated websites.
A Native American group has taken credit for a number of webpages made to look like the Washington Post, ESPN, and other news and sports sites, which convinced many people the Washington Redskins had changed their name and logo.
Rising Hearts, which describes itself as a women-led Indigenous group based in Washington, DC, said it created the fakes to show how easy and powerful changing the name would be.
“After decades of team owner Dan Snyder refusing to change the name of the Washington football team, Native advocates took to the internet to do it for him,” the group said in a press release Wednesday afternoon.
Native American groups have been pressuring the NFL team for decades to change its name, which they consider a slur. Snyder, however, has said he has no plans to do so.
“We’ll never change the name,” he told USA Today in 2013. “It’s that simple.”
The hoax was spread by several convincing fake news articles that said the team was going to rebrand itself as the Washington Redhawks, complete with a new logo.
The fake stories appeared on fake sites with the names washpostsports.com, espnsports.news, sportsillustrated.news, and bleacherreport.news. All of these domains were registered in the last month, according to Whois records.
News of the apparent name change received a huge response on social media Wednesday morning, with many people praising it as a welcome and long overdue decision.
The fake websites that were part of the stunt received tens of thousands of Facebook shares, likes, and comments in the first few hours they were up on Wednesday, according to the social analytics service BuzzSumo.
“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, one of the organizers of the stunt, said in a statement.
“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.”
The stunt even included a fake website for the “renamed” team that suggested the change would happen in fall 2018.
According to the fake team website, the name change was driven by Dan Snyder’s “deep admiration for Native Americans.”
“It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect — the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans,” reads a fake quote attributed to the team owner.
The (real) team responded on Wednesday, saying in a statement that it was aware of the “fraudulent websites” spreading the hoax.
“The name of the team is the Washington Redskins and will remain that for the future,” the team said.
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