MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) denied Friday a request to drop the use of the team name “Redskins” inside the Metrodome.
Native American groups are focusing on the nationally televised Sunday night game between the Vikings and Redskins on Nov. 7, asking state officials to ban the name Redskins everywhere inside the stadium. That includes the Metrodome’s scoreboards, programs and public address systems.
Indian mascots like the Washington Redskins are still common, but more and more controversial.
American Indian Movement leader Clyde Bellecourt is calling the name and logo not only offensive, but racist, and possibly illegal.
“Our word is no different than the N word,” he said. “Would they have a mascot here called Little Black Sambo? Oh, no.”
The 81-year-old Washington franchise has never had a different name, and the owner says he will never change it.
Critics are asking state officials to ban the name inside the publicly-owned stadium. But stadium lawyers say banning the name could be illegal.
“You would be engaging, I think, in what arguably is an unconstitutional prior restraint on the use of free speech,” said Jay Lindgren, a MSFA attorney.
The Vikings say they’ve met with Indian leaders and the NFL, and are leaving any decisions on the issue to the league.
“We understand the magnitude of this issue, and we respect and are sensitive to the concerns that they have raised,” said Lester Bagley, the Vikings spokesperson.
Lawyers for Native American groups say they are considering legal action. Indian leaders predict they will win the fight — no matter how long it takes.
“Every one of them said, ‘Oh, we’ll never change our name! We’ll never change our name!’ But when we get done with them, that name will change,” Bellecourt said.
Native American leaders say they expect hundreds of protesters outside the stadium before the Vikings game on Nov. 7.
Note: In Minnesota, almost every high school team has dropped American Indian mascot names. And nationwide, 2,000 teams have changed names in recent years. One thousand such names still remain.