MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — The University of Minnesota says it’s working with the Minnesota Vikings to keep the Washington Redskins’ name from being used when the two teams play on campus in November.
University President Eric Kaler gave the assurances in an Aug. 1 letter to U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat who has said using the name would violate school policies on equity and diversity.
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said the organization is sensitive to the issue, especially given Minnesota’s significant Native American population.
He said NFL policies obligate the Vikings to market the Nov. 2 game as they would any other game. When asked if that meant the Redskins’ name would be used, Bagley would only say that the Vikings will continue talking with university leaders and leaders of the Native American community as the game draws near.
“It’s an important issue, and we take it seriously,” he said.
Bagley said the Vikings have already met with university officials and more talks are expected but nothing has been scheduled.
McCollum issued a statement Thursday saying she is pleased Kaler is talking with the Vikings.
“The University of Minnesota should live up to its values,” McCollum said. “This includes ensuring an environment on campus in which Native Americans and all Americans will be respected, not disparaged.”
University officials said Thursday they can’t force the NFL or the Vikings to act.
“We are trying to influence the NFL partner that we have to do things that would reduce the offensiveness of using the team name and logo during the game,” said Katrice Albert, the school’s vice president for equity and diversity. ”
The university had asked the Vikings to ban the name from promotional and game day material, including the scoreboard and public address system. It also asked that Washington memorabilia sales be banned at TCF Bank Stadium and that Washington players wear throw-back uniforms, with out the team’s current logo.
The American Indian Movement says it will try to disrupt the streets around the stadium on game day.
“We are going to do everything we can possibly think of to put a stop to that game,” said activist Clyde Bellecourt.
Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie told the Washington Post that the team disagrees with the school’s effort. He says the team has met with many Native Americans from Minnesota who feel the team is using the term honorably.
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