LANDOVER—Native Americans and people from around the country joined together in front of FedEx Field to rally support for forcing Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name. Henry Boucha, vice president of the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and a member of the Ojibwa tribe from Minnesota, said for Native Americans, […]
LANDOVER—Native Americans and people from around the country joined together in front of FedEx Field to rally support for forcing Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name.
Henry Boucha, vice president of the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and a member of the Ojibwa tribe from Minnesota, said for Native Americans, the term “Redskin” has the same effect as calling African Americans the N-word.
“It’s probably the most horrific name in history as far as we’re concerned,” Boucha said. “A lot of people don’t realize the history behind it. That’s why we need to get out and tell people about it. It’s taken us a long time. We were oppressed for so long on our reservations. We were put down. They took our land, they took our kids and they took our families.”
Protestors marched across Arena Drive, cutting off FedEx Field traffic down to Brightseat Road and back to the parking lots.
Redskins fans could be heard shouting slurs as the protestors marched by the various tailgate gatherings in front of the field.
“Go back to the reservations,” said one Redskins fan, asked to remain unnamed.
“Go to Kansas City. Why are you guys only here? Go to Kansas City and bother them,” said another fan.
Tara Houska, a founding member of NotYourMascots.org and a member of the Couchiching First Nation, said people are prioritizing the matters of a football team over actual human beings.
“We are human beings. We’re not mascots. How is that not clear? How is it not clear that you’ve named a team after a bounty for Indian people?” Houska said. “They turn us into not human beings. We are mascots to them and that is terrible. Our culture is beautiful—it is not a costume. You should not be able to buy it at Target.”
Houska said she believes Native Americans are the only race in America still being caricatured and mimicked. As an attorney working on Capitol Hill, Houska said, the only Native Americans her colleagues know are cartoons which give them the wrong impression of Native American culture.
“People say that there are more important things to worry about,” Houska said. “This is an important thing.”
Spike Moss, community action chair for the NAACP in Minnesota, said the fight to get the Redskins’ named changed remains a struggle, but the community must continue to fight.
“I wish we could say it would be over this year, but I think we’ll be back here next year. And I need or you to bring 10 people with you,” Moss said. “People always ask ‘Why is this your fight?’. This is my fight because long before we were born my people were enslaved in this country. And long before there was an underground railroad we ran away to Indian nations and villages and we were never returned to slavery.”
Native Americans taught African slaves how to survive from the land, Moss said, and African Americans owe a great debt to the Native American culture. There is an obligation to repay the Native people for what they did in the past, Moss said.
Ian Washburn, a Redskins fan and a third-generation season ticket holder from Virginia, said he would like to talk with the team’s owner, Daniel Snyder, about the team’s name and the image.
“I’m a lifelong fan of the franchise and we’ve been down this road before,” Washburn said. “I know who George Preston Marshall was and I know what impact his anti-social civil rights battle had. It set us back years.”
Fifteen years after Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball, Marshall, a former owner of the Redskins, finally allowed an African American to play for the Redskins. “That’s a long time,” Washburn said. “And his monument is still standing proud right next to RFK Stadium and I want it removed.”
Washburn said he looks forward to a time when the community will not have to get together to protest against the team name anymore.
Richard Rogers, a local Redskins fan from Seat Pleasant, watched the protestors march around the tailgates and traffic while recording what happened.
“I understand why they feel this way even though I’m a fan,” Rogers said. “I just support my team the best way I can. I’ve been a fan for 30 years. No matter what the team name is, I will still support them.”