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December 13, 2017

Online hoax dupes internet, introduces 'Washington Redhawks' to NFL

The Washington Redhawks?

Those who actually fell for it were duped by an elaborate online hoax carried out by a group of Native American activists on Wednesday.

The group created several fake websites – including one that mimicked the Redskins' official webpage – that soon circulated the internet, saying Washington Redskins Owner Dan Snyder had announced his team's controversial nickname would be changed to the "Redhawks."

It didn't take long for the troll job to cause an internet and social media frenzy.

The debate over the name, which opponents see as offensive to Native Americans, had quieted since the Department of Justice gave up its legal fight over the issue in June.

“The point of this was to start the conversation again,” Sebastian Medina-Tayac, one of the organizers of the stunt, told the Washington Post. “This is an issue that comes up very dramatically. People really care about it and then something else hits the news cycle or the team does some PR gymnastics and sort of squirms their way out of facing it head on. We wanted to make it immediate and urgent by allowing people to imagine a world where that mascot is gone, the name is changed and see how people react to it.”

The group, named Rising Hearts, is composed of members of several tribes, the Washington Post reported. The activists spread their own version of "fake news" with a Twitter account and pages that resembled the news sites of ESPN, the Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report.

The group then posted a press release to the "Washington Redhawks" Twitter account it had created, stating that it wanted to show the NFL and the Redskins "how easy, popular and powerful changing the name could 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 stated.

The hoax caused enough of an internet stir to prompt a statement from the Redskins, which denounced the stunt and asserted that its team name "is the Washington Redskins and will remain that for the future."