American Indian groups plan to protest outside U.S. Bank Stadium when the Minnesota Vikings host the Washington Redskins for Thursday Night Football this week.
Protesters marched on TCF Bank Stadium the last time the Vikings hosted the Redskins in 2014—before U.S. Bank Stadium was completed. Opponents of the Redskins’ mascot are planning a similar rally for the October 24 matchup.
“There is no honor in racism. Join us for the Not Your Mascot March and Rally to urge the Washington NFL team to retire its degrading name and mascot,” states a flyer promoting the protest.
“In 2014, more than 4,000 people gathered outside the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium to support the retiring of the Washington NFL team name and mascot. Five years later, nothing has changed—the Washington NFL team still unapologetically uses the worst Native American racial epithet,” it adds. “Let’s make this showing even stronger.”
The protest is sponsored by Minnesota’s federally recognized tribes, the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media, the National Congress of American Indians, and the NDN Collective, according to The Star Tribune.
Two representatives from the protest groups spoke Friday at a monthly meeting for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. They described the Washington mascot as “the R-word” and discussed the “dark history” behind the team’s name.
According to The Star Tribune, Vikings Executive Vice President Lester Bagley said in a statement that the “franchise has had a longstanding and respectful relationship with the tribes, and that the Vikings have been working with protest organizers to ensure the event runs smoothly.”
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, the highest-ranking Native-American woman elected to an executive office in the U.S., is expected to speak at the rally. Flanagan recently thanked Gov. Tim Walz for declaring October 14 Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Minnesota, though it’s still legally recognized as Columbus Day.
— Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan (@LtGovFlanagan) October 15, 2019
Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder remains adamantly opposed to changing his team’s mascot, infamously declaring in 2013 that he will “never change the name.”
“It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps,” he said. In other interviews, Snyder has argued that the mascot connotes “honor” and “respect.”
“It’s just historical truths, and I’d like them to understand, as I think most do, that the name really means honor, respect. We sing ‘Hail to the Redskins.’ We don’t say hurt anybody. We say ‘Hail to the Redskins. Braves on the warpath. Fight for old D.C.’ We only sing it when we score touchdowns,” said Snyder.
In 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s appeals board nullified the team’s registrations and a district court judge upheld the ruling a year later. But then the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision on First Amendment grounds.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Washington Redskins Protest” by Fibonacci Blue. CC BY 2.0.