MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Native American activists are holding a rally near U.S. Bank Stadium Thursday afternoon, trying to urge the Washington Redskins to drop their team name and mascot.
Native Americans say it’s a disrespectful slur.
This is not the first protest against the Washington team’s name in Minnesota, as Minnesota has long been at the center for activism on this issue.
The first big protest against the Washington team’s name was way back in 1992, when Washington played the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl at the Metrodome. Thousands took to the frozen streets outside the Metrodome to express their anger.
Two decades later, in 2014, the largest protest ever against the name also happened in Minneapolis, as a police-estimated crowd of at least 3,000 marched to the Vikings-Washington showdown at TCF Bank Stadium.
“Minnesota has always been ground zero in the fight against racialized mascots in the NFL and other teams, and that is because of the history of tribes in this state,” University of St. Thomas professor Yohuru Williams said.
Williams says the Washington name ranks as the worst offender among the Native American names of major sports teams.
“The reality is, as a nickname, it elicits a bloody and ugly history of racism and racial oppression against native tribes in this country,” Williams said.
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, the nation’s highest ranking Native American state office holder, joined the protest.
“The term comes from the scalps … where people were essentially paid a bounty in cash for the scalps of Native American men, women and children,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan says she will be participating, and not just because she is a Native American woman and the state’s lieutenant governor.
“I am the mom of a 6-year-old Ojibwe girl and it is completely outrageous to me and to so many others that the Washington football team name is a racial slur,” she said.
Washington’s current owner Dan Snyder has owned the team since 1999, and amidst two decades of pressure he has repeatedly said he will never change the name. The NFL has also said it will not pressure the team to change its name.