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Redskins Push Back after Civil, Human Rights Group Calls for Name Change

As critics continue to raise concerns about the team’s name, team points to Native Americans who support its use.

Washington Redskins' name and logo remain under fire. Patch file photo
Washington Redskins' name and logo remain under fire. Patch file photo

The Washington Redskins’ name has faced a barrage of criticism this year as those who call it offensive stepped up pressure on the NFL franchise to change it, but owner Daniel Snyder and the team remain steadfast in their conviction to keep it.

Despite the categorical rejection of any such change by Snyder, opposition groups continue to press forward. On Thursday, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which represent more than 200 diverse organizations, approved a resolution calling for a change. In response, the team released comments to the media from Native American supporters of the name; however, the information does not appear to have been published on the team’s website.

“Having an offensive slur for the Washington team name teaches young people to celebrate the denigration of people for being who they are. That has a damaging psychic impact on individuals, as well as on the entire nation,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference. “Changing the name is the right thing do, regardless of how comfortable fans have become with it.”

Snyder has previously stated he would never agree to a name change, and a statement released Thursday from the team defended the use of the name.

“The Washington Redskins hold these civil rights leaders in high regard, but we respectfully believe they are mischaracterizing decades of honor and respect toward America's Indian heritage that our name represents for generations of Redskin fans and Native Americans alike,” the statement read. “We believe it is important to listen to and respect all sides on this issue, and that includes also listening to and learning from Native Americans and countless Redskin fans who, for generations, believe our name represents the strength, character and pride of our Indian heritage."

But participants of the Leadership Conference said the name denigrates not only Native Americans, but all people.

 “The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the organizations it represents understand that an attack on the civil rights of one set of people is an attack on the civil rights of all people,” said Ray Halbritter, representative of the Oneida Indian Nation as he urged support of the resolution.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary both call redskin an offensive term, Merriam-Webster says it should be avoided, while Oxford says that even if its origins were not offensive – stating it was derived from the Algonquians use of red paint, not their skin color – it has become offensive.

The Redskins released a couple from comments from Native Americans supportive of the name.

“As a LOYAL REDSKINS FAN for over 22 years, and as a NATIVE AMERICAN, I don't find the name offensive,” said Patricia Felt, of the Iroquois Tribe. “I would find it offensive if you changed the name, you would be wiping out MY history.’

Fan Janine Palma VanDenBerg stated: “I am 100 percent Native American from the Tsimshian Tribe [Alaska]. I back the REDSKINS with all my heart, soul and body ... I as a Native American have never had any issues with the name. I have always believed that the Native Americans have lacked any sense of placement in the USA. But the Washington Redskins gives us so much happiness and pride and loyalty to our past.”

See full text of the Leadership Conference resolution online.

John Strother December 15, 2013 at 11:25 AM
People will support their sports teams no matter what they are called. This about the name goes back longer and before many folks were even born. Tradition should mean a lot. However, some folks will find tradition to be in their way and want to change things. It is basic they want to be recognized and be known. There should be some middle ground here, however what ever term anyone may come up with to still hinor or Native Americans and this team too, someday in the future it will be considered foul.

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