This uncredited photograph shows the sign-in desk at the KTNN Celebrity Golf Tournament, with the Washington Redskins OAF banner clearly visible. The image was circulated on Twitter with the hashtags 'NotYourMascot' and 'KTNNscandal.'

Redskins Sponsorship Taints Navajo Golf Event, Other Sponsors Outraged

Gale Courey Toensing

Newly disclosed information that the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation was sponsoring a fund-raising golf tournament organized by KTNN, the Navajo Nation’s radio station, on Friday sparked a firestorm of controversy, prompting Native organizations to withdraw from the event and Navajo citizens to scorch the virtual pages of social media with outrage.

The Navajo Nation president backed the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation’s (OAF) sponsorship, however, and encouraged his appointees to support the tournament, according to an executive office document received by Indian Country Today Media Network.

The news of the OAF’s involvement in the golf tournament broke just hours after an announcement that the Navajo Nation adopted a bill opposing the use of the name Redskins, a term that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples called a “hurtful reminder. . .of the long history of mistreatment of Native American people in the United States” in a separate announcement on the same day. The Nation enacted the anti-Redskins bill in a 9-2 council vote Thursday.

RELATED: Navajo Nation Officially Joins Fight Against Redskins Mascot

On April 8 -- two days before the council voted on the anti-Redskins bill --  Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly’s Executive Assistant Michelle Morris sought support for the tournament from more than 70 executive office staff members and Division Directors (DDs) – presidential appointees whose mission, defined at, is “to carry out exceptional performance and effectiveness in the respective divisions.” In an email sent at 11:22 a.m., Morris wrote, “ALL FYI, per our discussion at the DD Mtg, please see attached is the event that the President will need your support on! Thanks. Mich.” Attached was a PDF file of a brochure with the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation 1st Annual KTNN Celebrity Golf Tournament” prominently displayed. It is not clear what kind of "support" Shelly was seeking from his appointees.

Asked late Friday whether Shelly would withdraw his support of the tournament now that its sponsor’s name was  officially deemed a racial slur and opposed in Navajo law, Communications Director Rick Abasta told ICTMN, “We have no comment at this time.”


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