The Washington NFL team announced Monday that it will retire its name and logo, which Native Americans and activists have long condemned as racist.
Now, members of the Native American community in New England and beyond are celebrating something they have advocated for for years.
The name change comes after some of the team's corporate sponsors pressured owner Dan Snyder to drop the name.
In a statement released Monday, the team wrote that Snyder and head coach Ron Rivera are "working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years."
Mahtowin Munro, the co-leader of United American Indians of New England, said she was delighted by the announcement.
"I think all of the many thousands of Native people and allies who've been working for years, for decades, are really happy that it's finally happening," Munro said.
Munro pointed out that the change comes as the Black Lives Matter movement has forced discussions on imagery used across the United States, as well as the retirement of long-held symbols like the state flag of Mississippi.
"It's hard to think of many things more disgusting than having a long-time NFL football team using a racial slur against Native Americans as their team name," Munro said.
The organization, which started in Boston in 1932 and played for several years in Fenway Park before moving to the Washington area, has a long, troubled history with race and embracing change. In 1962, over a decade after Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier in baseball, Washington was the last team in the NFL to integrate.
George Preston Marshall, who owned the team at the time and actively resisted its integration, was memorialized in a statue that used to stand outside of RFK Stadium in Washington, the former home of the team. Events DC, which operates the stadium, removed the statue last month.
But even under modern management, the team remained controversial. Snyder, the current owner, said in 2013 that he would "never change the name."
Munro said she doesn't think anyone who is in charge of the team has grown since then, but that there are more economic interests at stake.
"What we have had to say has been diminished and belittled for a long time," she said. "So I think it took some extra outside pressure to make them do the right thing. I don't think that they've suddenly turned into wonderful people from the team management. I don't have a sense of that. I think the economic and other factors are key here."
There have been several suggestions for what name the team could take on to re-brand itself, including the Washington Redtails, which would honor the Tuskegee Airmen.
But Munro cautioned against using other names and imagery that could play on Native American iconography, like Washington Warriors.
Now that Washington is removing a name and logo that many have long said are ugly scars on American professional sports, Munro said she wants other teams that use similar imagery to change, as well.
"These teams need to stop delaying and playing games and pretending everything [is] OK, and they need to make the change now," she said.
In a statement, the National Congress of American Indians said this is a day "for all Native people to celebrate."
"We thank the generations of tribal nations, leaders, and activists who worked for decades to make this day possible. We commend the Washington NFL team for eliminating a brand that disrespected, demeaned, and stereotyped all Native people, and we call on all other sports teams and corporate brands to retire all caricatures of Native people that they use as their mascots," the statement said. "We are not mascots -- we are Native people, citizens of more than 500 tribal nations who have stood strong for millennia and overcome countless challenges to reach this pivotal moment in time when we can help transform America into the just, equitable, and compassionate country our children deserve."
Munro said the announcement hits close to home, as she pushes for legislation to end the use of Native American mascots by local teams and advocates to change the Massachusetts flag and seal, which has also been criticizedfor its depiction of Native Americans.
"I think a bottom line should be that Native American people are human. We're still here, we're not extinct," she said. "And we are not here to be any teams' mascot or team name."