Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Washington Redskins Racist? What Do the Navajo Really Think?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Washington Redskins Racist? What Do the Navajo Really Think?

Article excerpt

Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly was an honored guest of Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, sitting next to him during yesterday's NFL game between the Redskins and Arizona Cardinals. And this viral photo of Native American leader is being hailed as a rebuttal to those who say the team's name is racist.

What do Native Americans, whom the name supposedly offends, actually think? Is Shelly's support representative?

Public statements and opinion polls show mixed feelings on the name, and the photo - complete with Mr. Shelly in a Redskins cap - is raising more questions about a team name change.

While some saw the gesture as a powerful public handshake, others were quick to criticize.

"This is some heinously ham-handed PR," Tom Logue tweeted in response to the photo. Then Deadspin reported that Shelly, who will finish his single presidential term in January, has clashed with his own tribal council, which voted 9-2 in April to formally oppose the Washington Redskins name. He was also accused of going behind the back of tribal leaders when he co-hosted a golf tournament with Mr. Snyder's Original Americans Foundation.

Snyder recently told ESPN he won't bow to pressure to change his team's nickname as it is not derogatory, claiming it's actually a term of honor and respect. He cited William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz, the team's first coach and namesake, and Walter "Blackie" Wetzel, a former president of the National Congress of American Indians and chairman of the Blackfeet Nation, who helped design and approve the team's logo.

Positive history aside, how do Native Americans today feel about the name?

The Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at California State University in San Bernardino surveyed 400 individuals, 98 of them Native Americans, and found that 67 percent of Native Americans agreed the "Redskins team name is a racial or racist word and symbol. …

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