Protesting the R word

Despite protests and pleas, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority announced October 26 that they will go ahead and allow the use of the derogatory team nickname of the Washington NFL franchise in the Metrodome at the November 7 game. The American Indian Movement — AIM of Twin Cities and AIM Patrol of Minneapolis — had called on the MSFA to ban the use of the mascot and logo inside the publicly-funded stadium and now plans to protest the game.

Other organizations joining the protest include the NAACP St. Paul Youth and Collegiate Branch and the Augsburg Indigenous Student Association.

Protests against the Washington “Redskins” name have gone national, and the local coalition charges that broadcasting, printing and displaying the name and logo within a publicly-funded stadium violates the civil rights of American Indians.

A report issued by the National Congress of American Indians in mid-October said, in part:

“‘Indian’ sports brands used by professional teams were born in an era when racism and bigotry were accepted by the dominant culture. These brands which have grown to become multi-million dollar franchises were established at a time when the practice of using racial epithets and slurs as marketing slogans were a common practice among white owners seeking to capitalize on cultural superiority and racial tensions. …

“The term originates from a time when Native people were actively hunted and killed for bounties, and their skins were used as proof of Indian kill. Bounties were issued by European companies, colonies, and some states, most notably California. By the turn of the 20th century it had evolved to become a term meant to disparage and denote inferiority and savagery in American culture. By 1932, the word had been a term of commodification and a commentary on the color of a body part. It was not then and is not now an honorific.”

Congressmember Betty McCollum said in an October 18 letter to other public officials:

“… the Washington team is a privately owned business that chooses to use the disparaging and demeaning brand ‘Redskins’ as their mascot. In my view, this NFL team’s mascot is an unacceptable racial slur disparaging to Native Americans and offensive to Minnesotans. This view is shared by leaders throughout the Native American community who have spent decades advocating for a change to this harmful, discriminatory mascot.”

Many other public officials, including President Barack Obama, have called on the team to change its name.

The NCAI report has history and detail on what’s wrong with the racist “mascot” names, as well as on the decades-long struggle to get rid of them. The Facebook page has details on the November 7 demonstration:

“Meet around 5:00 and the March is to start at 5:25 from the Minneapolis American Indian Center – 1530 East Franklin Ave. Minneapolis, Minnesota to the Mall of America Field followed by a Rally.

“Drum groups are invited to bring their big drums or everyone is invited to bring their hand drums.”

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