Ron Jackson
People supporting a name change listen as Virgil Ortiz of Laguna Pueblo speaks at the Anti-Redskins protest rally on October 11, 2014. Ortiz is an Professor at Arizona State University.

Tears of Protest at Redskins Game and How Dan Snyder Caused Them

Nicolet Deschine Parkhurst

More than 150 protesters turned out at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, to rally against the Washington NFL team’s continued use of the name “Redskins” and to demand that the team Change the Name.

As one of the organizers of the rally, our intent was to increase exposure of the diverse communities of Native American people who oppose the theft of our culture and identity for use as mascots, and to raise awareness that the issue is deeper than just the name of a team.

The rally was well attended with approximately 150 advocates in attendance from the Tohono O’odam Nation, Akimel O’otham, Onk Akimel O’otham, Mohave, Chemehuevi, Acoma, Diné, Hopi, Hunkpapa Lakota, Zuni Pueblo, along with many non-Native supporters.

Alyssia Hoover of the Navajo Nation holds a sign that reads "The Washington racists" during a protest rally in Glendale, Arizona on October 11, 2014. (Ron Jackson)

The morning started with representatives from the Traditional O’odham Council offering a prayer, followed by a welcome by Amanda Blackhorse, a Diné social worker and lead plaintiff in Blackhorse v Pro-Football, Inc.  

Organizers were aware the Washington NFL team provided game tickets to leaders and community members from Zuni Pueblo and the Navajo Nation, and to students at the Red Mesa High School, a state-managed school located on the Navajo Nation. In her welcoming remarks, Blackhorse said, “We’re not here to fight amongst ourselves, we’re not here to call them bad names… we’re here to let people know and to raise awareness.”

RELATED: Native Groups to Protest Sunday’s Redskins Game in Arizona

As protesters marched on Maryland, a street north of the UOP stadium, game attendees were walking towards the stadium.  The group chanted sound bites such as “Humans are not mascots,” “What do we want? Respect. When do we want it? Now,” “Hey-hey-ho-ho, redface has got to go,” “Game over for racism,” and “R-word is a dictionary defined racial slur.” This is because cognitive dissonance can shake up a person’s preconceived notion with new information that they may not have considered before, making a person rethink and potentially challenge their own position and way of thinking.

During the rally, the speakers – including Blackhorse and renowned Acoma poet and writer Simon J. Ortiz – touched on different aspects of the mascot issue, including the current legal environment surrounding the team’s trademark, and the history behind the 40-year fight and national efforts to educate the public.

Dennis Welsh, a councilman from the Colorado River Indian Tribes in Arizona and California, and treasurer of the National Congress of American Indians, explained how the issue is deeper than the team’s name.

He drew the links to racism, colonialism and the structure of oppression, and emphasized the negative impacts on the self-esteem of Native youth, and protecting Native culture and identity.

Our goal was to raise awareness, and we did, on national television to millions of viewers as reporters took note of the protest and controversial name.There were fans from the Cardinals and Washington teams who gave fist bumps, thumbs up, and spoke words of encouragement. One particular Washington fan engaged in a civil, educational exchange with advocates and later said he supported the cause, but that he wasn’t aware of the controversy until recently.  

(l to r) Elsa Johnson from the Navajo Nation, Souta Calling Last of the Blackfoot Nation and Laura Medina of the Ojibwe Nation were determined to show show support for the name change as Elsa quoted "Fighting for racism to end." (Ron jackson)

Other Washington fans called Native advocates names, and told us “to go back to where we came from,” throwing the middle finger. One Washington fan was getting in the face of a Native protester, but was pulled back as police approached to intervene.

Though we knew that team owner Dan Snyder had bussed in Zuni and Navajo students to attend the game at no cost, nothing could have prepared me to see the direct exploitation of youth.

I cried. Not because I was scared or fearful. I let tears fall because my heart truly ached for those Diné youth who were dragged into Snyder’s debacle. Shame on  Snyder for exploiting youth with signed t-shirts, caps, game tickets, iPads, and money. They are not your mascots.


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100IndigenousAmerican's picture
Submitted by 100IndigenousAm... on
...and grandma, grandpa, homeless, hungry urban Native American people remain ignored. There must be a better way to communicate the displeasure with the name besides drawing a lot of negative publicity has penetrated my workplace. Study the organization carefully, gather the harmful statistical evidence on Native people, find the core of Snyder as a man, and let the change run its course. Look at how long it took the NFL to take action on concussion and domestic violence. It took a long time and many people were hurt or destroyed by denials. It takes time changing the attitude of big money. My solution is see the ProSports as blood sucking big business and I avoid it. Out of sight out of mind works for me - somewhat like avoiding 20.00 bills the rest of my life. It is a hassle, but I've been avoiding andie jackson since 2000 thinking he has no place in my pockets. The only place I see his face is on toilet paper, that works for me.

Submitted by tupakhuehuecoyotl on
GAME OVER for RACISM! CHANGE THE NAME! CHANGE THE MASCOT! Rally and March University of Phoenix Stadium Glendale, Arizona October 12, 2014 Grassroots effort mobilizing against the abuse of Indigenous Peoples identity and culture as a commodity to be marketed without accountability. End the use of the R-word racial slur and mascot by the NFL Washington Team!