Cynthia Terry, Staff Writer
On Oct. 24, the Minnesota Vikings faced the Washington Redskins in U.S Bank Stadium for a Thursday night football game. Protestors were outside the stadium when the Washington players came to the stadium.
The protest was organized in hopes of stopping the team from using the name “Redskins”. The protestors explain that “Redskins” was a word that was used in the context of “scalping” Native Americans, a vicious form of murder. The protest had around 300 people, many of them Native Americans. Among the marchers was Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a Native American. Flanagan said that the name “dehumanizes our people.” Minnesota State Reps. Mary Kunesh-Podein and Jamie Becker-Finn and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey joined the protest as well. As they marched, protesters chanted “we are not your mascot”, bearing signs that said “there is no honor in racism”.
The protest was organized by the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media along with local native tribes, but was significantly smaller than a similar protest the last time the Washington team played in Minnesota in 2014, which drew a rally with an estimated 4,000 people.
Use of Native American names and images has remained controversial in the realm of sports. The Cleveland Indians phased out Chief Wahoo, a logo featuring a caricature of a grinning Native American, after the 2018 season. Before a playoff game this month, the Atlanta Braves discontinued the practice of handing fans foam tomahawks after a player for a rival team, a member of the Cherokee Nation, complained that he found it “disrespectful.”
Despite these small victories, the Washington team’s owner Daniel Snyder repeatedly has said he will not change the team name, saying “our use of ‘Redskins’ as the name of our football team for more than 81 years has always been respectful of and shown reverence toward the proud legacy and traditions of Native Americans.”
A representative for the Minnesota Vikings addressed the controversy with the following statement:
“The Minnesota Vikings recognize the sensitivity of this issue. Minnesota has a significant Native American population and our franchise has strong, positive relationships with several tribal nations and Native American leaders within the state. We have maintained an ongoing and respectful dialogue with the Native American community, as well as with other state leaders, on this matter and continue to participate in conversations regarding tonight’s game. In terms of in-game elements, we are obligated as a member of the NFL to operate and market the game as we would any other Vikings home game. We respect and support our local community voices having an opportunity to be heard. As with all of our games, our primary focus will be on providing a positive game day experience for Vikings fans. We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that successful game experience.”
This article was originally published in the November 1, 2019 issue.