Washingtonians were nearly fooled by an "elaborate hoax" conducted by a Native American rights group saying the Washington Redskins had been renamed.
In a far-reaching hoax, a group created several fake web pages. On one web page sporting a Washington Post banner that looked strikingly like the D.C. publication’s actual website, activists posted a wishful, but false, article saying the football team was changing its name.
"This morning the Washington football team made a surprise announcement that the franchise is changing its controversial name from the Redskins to the Redhawks," the page read. It was posted to a URL that also, at first glance, could appear to be legitimately related to the Washington Post: washpostsports.com.
Over 14,500 people shared the fake story on Facebook after it surfaced Wednesday.
The activists also set up a website that resembled the Washington Redskins' official page. The top banner says "Go Washington Redhawks!"
The Washington Redskins confronted the rumors over Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
"This morning, the Redskins organizations was made aware of fraudulent websites about our team name," the Twitter statement said. "The name of the team is the Washington Redskins and will remain that way for the future."
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Later, Peggy Flanagan, a Native activist from Minnesota, tweeted that the article and fake website were an "elaborate hoax."
Washpostsports eventually posted a disclaimer at the top of the article, saying the website is a "parody" that wasn’t endorsed by the Washington Post.
"This website was created by Native advocates created to help us all imagine how easy and powerful changing the mascot could be," the disclaimer said, before linking to a press release.
A native activist group, Rising Hearts, was behind the hoax, according to the press release. That group plans to host a rally on Saturday asking Redskins owner Dan Snyder to change a name they call racist.
"As a native person that grew up in Washington D.C.," Medina-Tayac, who helped organize the hoax, said. "Seeing that mascot was deeply offensive." He says he is of Piscataway heritage.
"We had to get the issue back in the news," Medina-Tayac, who was born in the Washington, D.C. area said.
It would appear they were successful. A number of news outlets covered the hoax, including USA Today, ESPN and the Washington Post. Organizers say they’re happy with the public response, which was supportive.
"People were overwhelmingly excited," Medina-Tayac said.
Changing the Redskins name would be easy, Medina-Tayac said, because it's only a four-letter difference between Redskins and Redhawks.
"Who are they rooting for? Are they rooting for the team or are they rooting for that severed head?" Medina-Tayac asked.