MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A coalition of tribal governments, Native American activists and supporters of the native community plan to rally Thursday afternoon to urge the Washington Redskins to drop their team name and mascot.
A coalition of Minnesota Native American tribes and organizations will host a “Not Your Mascot” march that will turn into a rally at The Commons near U.S. Bank Stadium. Participants will gather at Peavey Field Park at 2 p.m. and the march is slated to start at 4 p.m.
This wouldn’t be the first time there’s been a protest in Minnesota over the Washington team name. Back in 2014, thousands gathered outside TCF Bank Stadium.
“Five years ago, we gathered outside TCF Bank Stadium to encourage the retirement of the Washington NFL team name,” Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin said. “Since then, nothing has changed – the Washington NFL team still unapologetically uses the worst Native American racial epithet.”
The rally is expected to include speeches from a number of politicians, including Rep. Betty McCollum, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, and state representatives Mary Kunesh-Podein and Jamie Becker-Finn.
“The name is not positive or respectful; it is the very opposite, and instead encourages a dangerous caricature of what it means to be Native American. It is time to change the name. There is no honor in racism,” Clyde Bellecourt, founder and national director of the American Indian Movement and cofounder of NCARSM, said.
Chad Germann, owner of Twin Cities ad agency Red Circle, produced an ad pointing out the hypocrisy in the “Redskins” name back in 2014, which received national attention.
For 2019, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe member produced a new spot, showing a little girl sitting with a woman reading a book. The two ask a smart speaker to define words like “cooperate” and “merch” before asking what “redskin” means.
The commercial ends with the smart speaker saying “redskin, the scalp of a dead native American collected by government bounty hunters and sold for $50 cash” along with the shocked reaction by the girl and woman.
On Thursday morning, the Vikings released a statement regarding the issue:
The Minnesota Vikings recognize the sensitivity of this issue. Minnesota has a significant Native American population and our franchise has strong, positive relationships with several tribal nations and Native American leaders within the state.
We have maintained an ongoing and respectful dialogue with the Native American community, as well as with other state leaders, on this matter and continue to participate in conversations regarding tonight’s game.
In terms of in-game elements, we are obligated as a member of the NFL to operate and market the game as we would any other Vikings home game.
We respect and support our local community voices having an opportunity to be heard. As with all of our games, our primary focus will be on providing a positive game day experience for Vikings fans. We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that successful game experience.
Prior to games, the Vikings release weekly illustrations that usually include the other team’s mascot. On Thursday, however, the team chose a more Halloween-themed angle and did not include the Washington nickname or logo.
Team owner Dan Snyder has said in interviews over the years he will never change the Redskins name.
In an interview last year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league would not pressure the team to change it.