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'Redskins' Are Set to Lose as Public Awareness Grows

“Redskins” Are Set to Lose as Public Awareness Grows
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Colorado activists confronted Washington fans and players with signs, handouts and slogans as they protested the name “Redskin” at the Denver Washington NFL football game yesterday. The activists blasted the Washington team’s name as racist and outdated as they marched outside Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

“We are here today to tell Washington owner Dan Snyder that his brand of racism might fly in D.C., but when the team comes to Denver, it is going to get push-back from Native people and our allies,” said Glenn Morris, leader of the American Indian Movement.'

Glenn Morris, AIM leader, rallies marchers during yesterday's protest at the Bronco Redskin NFL game (Carol Berry)

The AIM, Idle No More and Denver activists protested against the team’s mascot with loud chants, “Hey, Dan Snyder, you can’t hide, you are on the racist side.”

Dozens of red signs calling on the Washington team to “Change the Mascot” were held aloft for the players to see as they walked by an area outside the stadium that was packed with police.

Although the Denver activists shouted at the teams’ buses as they sped through the entrance to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, they were not acknowledged. Denver Broncos officials made no comment despite requests about the name controversy. And the name “Redskin” remained in the Sunday sports pages of The Denver Post, despite the activists’ efforts to discourage the media’s use of the name.

A radio announcement by the Oneida Indian Nation began running on 102.3 ESPN the day before the game. It noted that the Washington team was the last team to permit racial integration and that it kept to its underlying philosophy when it chose a “racial slur as the team’s name.”

In the ad, called “Legacy,” Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO, said the Nation is a proud sponsor of the NFL and that they understand Washington fans don’t intend to offend Native Americans. “We just want to be treated as what we all are—Americans,” he said in the ad.

Interested bystanders at the game were told that “Redskin” (as described by the National Congress of American Indians and other major groups) originated at a time when Natives were hunted and killed for bounty and when their “red” skins were used as proof of a kill.

AIM and others disagree with Native and non-Native people who suggest that this is a trivial issue, or that there are more important issues for Native people to address. “The fact that those in the dominating culture try to dismiss this as trivial quibbling exposes the power behind the national privilege to treat indigenous peoples as pets, mascots, or ‘conquered peoples,’” Morris said.

Jolynne Woodcock, Oglala Lakota, and an INM leader echoed that sentiment during a rally after the game. “Why don’t you focus on one thing—focus on something that’s really important. We’re going to focus on the racism our children have to fight every day.”