An elaborate hoax fooled some into believing the Washington Redskins had changed their controversial name

Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesWashington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
  • A group of Native American activists pulled off an elaborate hoax on Wednesday, using detailed recreations of popular sports sites to spread a story that made it appear that the Washington Redskins had changed their name to the Redhawks.
  • In a press release, the group explained that they created the plan in order to show how easy and popular such a change would be if enacted.
  • The Redskins responded with a statement that made clear they had no plans on changing their name any time soon.

A group of Native activists pulled off an elaborate hoax on Wednesday, tricking many sports fans into believing that the Washington Redskins had changed their controversial name.

The hoax included fake posts to sites constructed to look like regular sources of sports news, including recreations of ESPN, Bleacher Report, and Sports Illustrated – all outlets that one would expect to be covering such news in some way. Further, the stories are convincingly written, making the news easy to believe to anyone casually scrolling through their Twitter timeline.

While on close examination these sites don’t stand up to sceptical scrutiny – the URLs end in “.news” and links to other parts of their respective sites are dead – the amount of detail put into their creation is something incredible. The Sports Illustrated page comes complete with a banner for Peter King’s MMQB column, and a sidebar filled with other stories that appear real until you try to click through. At the ESPN page, all of the drop down menus look just as they do at the real thing.

SI hoaxsportsillustrated.newsA screenshot of the fake MMQB page.

The stories themselves are also quite convincing, with quotes attributed to relevant parties that one would imagine being involved in the reaction to a change to the Redskins’ name, including people affiliated with the team and activists that have been a part of the movement for a name change for years.

ESPN hoaxespnsports.newsA screenshot of the fake ESPN page.

Since the hoax went viral, a disclaimer has appeared at the top of each article.

DISCLAIMER:This website is a parody and is not endorsed nor affiliated with Sports Illustrated. This website was created by Native advocates created to help us all imagine how easy and powerful changing the mascot could be. See our press release for more details.

In that press release, Native advocates – the Rising Hearts Coalition – explain their reasoning for the effort that fooled many online.

“We created this action to show the NFL and the Washington Football franchise how easy, popular and powerful changing the name could be,” says Rebecca Nagle (Cherokee Nation), one of the organisers 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.”

To that point, the activists certainly achieved their goal – the mood of people sharing these stories before they were revealed to be hoaxes was a supportive one, as opposed to one of outrage from fans hoping to keep the team’s current moniker.

But even with the rather positive reception the idea initially received, the official Washington Redskins decided to make clear that a name change was not in the works, realeasing a statement in response to the hoax.

According to the press release from the activists that put the project together, the group is hosting an in-person press conference in Washington D.C. this Thursday in front of RFK Stadium, as well as a rally at FedEx Field on Sunday ahead of the Redskins’ game against the Cardinals.

The group also apologised for any disappointment they may have caused in anyone who was elated by the news only to later find out that the name change was a hoax, adding that “The purpose of this action is to show that the need for a new mascot is real and immediate. This online campaign is one of many direct and confrontational tactics that we as Native people have to use to demand our human dignity.”

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