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Redskins-Vikings: Open Letter From Congresswoman Betty McCollum

Betty McCollum
11/3/13

Dear Governor Dayton, Attorney General Swanson, Sen. Champion, Sen. Rosen, Mayor Rybak, Council President Johnson and Chair Helgen:

On November 7 the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome will be the site of a Nation Football League (NFL) game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington NFL franchise. As you are aware, 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 American 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.

In fact, only last week the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) released a report entitles “Ending the Legacy of Racism in Sports & the Era of Harmful “Indian” Sports Mascots.” When citing the NFL’s Washington franchise, NCAI’s Executive Director Jacqueline Pata said:

“Unfortunately, the team’s legacy and history is an ugly one, rooted in racism and discrimination, including the origins of the team’s name. It is becoming more and more obvious that the team’s legacy on racial equality is to remain on the wrong side of history for as long as possible.”

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome is named in honor of the former Minneapolis mayor, U.S. Senator, and Vice President of the United States who championed civil rights and antidiscrimination. The Metrodome is a publicly operated facility and financed by Minnesota taxpayers. The State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis have legal obligations to ensure this facility is a workplace and a public venue that is welcoming to all Minnesotans, including Native Americans, and free from the public display or announcement of any racial slur.

With regard to the NFL game on November 7, it would be my hope that all state statues, ordinances of the City of Minneapolis, and policies of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) regards civil rights, non-discrimination, and affirmative action would be fully reviewed and applied with regard to displaying, publicly announcing, and promoting the Washington team’s racially disparaging name and logo.

 

I have read news reports that the MSFA may have concerns about limiting the use of the Washington team’s name and logo, as requested by some Native American groups, due to contractual obligations with the NFL. Such concerns should never trump the civil rights and antidiscrimination laws, ordinances, and policies of government bodies charged with defending and advancing the public interest.

The NFL and the owner of Washington’s football team have a right to free speech. Constitutional protections allow them to offend, degrade, and disparage any race, ethnic group, religion, or person of sexual orientation with their private funds within private spaces. But the people of Minnesota do not have an obligation to open the doors of our public sports facility and allow a for-profit entity to display and promote their racial slur. Indeed, we have an obligation to stand against the harmful denigration of protected classes of people in our public spaces, particularly when that demeaning language and imagery is targeted at a group that suffers from the highest rates of hate crimes and suicides in our nation.

As responsible and committed Minnesota leaders, I would urge you to take action to ensure that on November 7 the Metrodome remains a public venue where all Minnesotans, especially Native Americans, can work, watch, and enjoy a Vikings football game without a hostile, degrading, and offensive slur inflicted upon them.

 

Sincerely,

Betty McCollum

Member of Congress

CO-Chair, Congressional Native American Caucus

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Anonymous's picture
Fighting Terrorism Since 1492, A Song so why don’t you change it, it’d be so easy to do you are the chosen one, it’s been left up to you you call our team the braves, oh, how can it be of the trials of these people, we just cannot conceive and when i think about what happen, i can’t help but cry for this land we call America, so many people have died so why don’t we change it, ya know it’s only a game but to the redman’s people, it is a sacred name so why don’t we change it, it’d be so easy to do we are the chosen ones, we are the chosen crew and when i think about what happen, i can’t help but cry for this land we call America so many people have cried
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
It's Mall of America field now, btw.
Anonymous
bullbear's picture
There is no question what Congresswoman McCollum is bringing to light. That is, taxpayers money go largely to support the NFL in each of its games. How are police services paid? Taxes. Employers and employees are required to abide by publicly adopted statutes that prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, sex or age, etc. Each time the Washington Redskins are playing an official NFL game, they are imposing upon racial discrimination. Each metropolitan city has a right to cancel the game they are playing in as each publicly elected official of those cities has an obligation to ensure that publicly-funded events are without discrimination. I tip my hat to Congresswoman McCollum for her bold and righteous stand to end discrimination that has, for decades, negatively affected an entire race of people in America. If we can't protect our public citizens from those who own privately-funded sports teams, what are we telling the rest of the world?
bullbear
Anonymous's picture
As a white person can you imagin yourself sitting at a football game watching the team mascots dressed as slaves? would you enjoy watching the game knowing your ancestors used Black people as Slaves and majority of team members are Black people? Natives Names used for NFL Teams were Stolen Names just the Same as All the Land Stolen from the Natives who are owners of this Land. No one Franchise has ever Requested a Native Tribe for a patent names to use as/for their NFL Team's logo/mascot, and should be held financially obligated for the millions earned to Reimburse all Natives and Retroactive to date of first game to present.
Anonymous
Anonymous's picture
You know this has been going on for decades about the name of the Washington Redskins. If you going to change one you need to change all the schools mascot names that has to do with native names, and I bet you, you will have alot of Indian people mad here in Oklahoma. So I think let it be, I proud that these mascot names are somewhat native names. Glad to be an Native American, and still gripping about the name of Washington Redskins, people need to be worrying about the programs for the childrens, and food programs. It always been here, leave it alone my people.
Anonymous