The scene at this tiny, remote high school was as boisterous as it was remarkable: Nearly everyone on the field and in the bleachers belongs to the Navajo Nation. Most of the people in Red Mesa not only reject claims that their team’s nickname is a slur, they have emerged as a potent symbol in the heated debate over the name of the more widely known Redskins — Washington’s NFL team. More than half the school’s 220 students eagerly accepted free tickets from the team for an Oct. 12 game near Phoenix, where they confronted Native American protesters who were there to condemn Washington’s moniker.
None of that mattered to the Red Mesa Redskins as they marched onto the field for their game against the Lobos of Many Farms High School. It was homecoming, and the players knew they needed to keep winning if they wanted to make their first appearance in the state playoffs in five years.
Red Mesa students, parents and alumni stamped the bleachers, clutching signs that read “Fear the Spear” and “Redskin Nation.”