Plenty of people have been trying to get the NFL’s Washington Redskins to change their name for decades, but team owner Daniel Snyder delivered what all should regard as a pretty sound statement denying such a request.
In the last few days, “NFL officials agreed to meet with the Oneida Indian Nation,” which had purchased radio ads in the team’s market urging Snyder to drop the name, the Washington Post reports. Even President Obama threw his voice into the mix, noting that he’d consider changing the name if he were the owner. The Oneida staged a protest Monday in Washington and the National Congress of American Indians released a poster that showed baseball hats featuring racist team names such as the “New York Jews” and “San Francisco Chinamen.”[more]
Snyder has pretty much seen and heard it all through the years. While plenty of other teams have invited outrage as well, the Redskins have become the poster child for the name-change movement. But Snyder is standing firm—a sentiment he described in a letter he sent to fans and season ticket holders on Wednesday.
He referenced stats from a “nine-year-old Annenberg Public Policy Center poll of 800 Native Americans across 48 states that showed nine out of 10 did not find the name offensive” as well as an April “Associated Press-GFK poll that found 79 percent of those surveyed said the team should keep its name.” But he also shared his own personal story as well, about his father’s happiness when the Redskins scored and his pride in singing the team song. “That tradition—the song, the cheer—it mattered so much to me as a child,” he wrote, “and I know it matters to every other Redskins fan in the D.C. area and across the nation.”
Of course, hearing about little Danny’s early Redskins memories didn’t make critics of the name back down: Former Federal Communications Commission chairman Reed Hundt recalled his first visit to a Redskins game for the Post: “It was an all-white team and the owner was an avowed racist,” he said, referring to George Preston Marshall, who kept his team all-white longer than any other owner and is responsible for the team’s name. Hundt is working toward getting broadcasters to agree to not use the name anymore.
The Oneida’s aren’t backing down either, with a meeting planned with NFL officials—and hopefully Snyder—coming up. “The marketing of this racial slur has had—and continues to have—very serious cultural, political, and public health consequences for my people and Native Americans everywhere,” Oneida Nation spokesman Ray Halbritter said, according to Time. “It is clear from Mr. Snyder’s letter that he does not understand those consequences.”