Mr. Bellecourt is right!

‘Redskins’ controversy heats up again


ThroughMyEyesnewThis column identifies with, respects and supports Clyde Bellecourt’s request to NFL, Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, don’t use “Redskins,” even if the NFL does. We stand in unity against racism, for far too long a part of the American and Minnesota landscapes.

The Jewish owner of the Washington NFL team, Dan Snyder, is doing one of three things: (1) carrying on the racist legacy of George Preston Marshall’s ghost, (2) being tone deaf to fans who understand how racist it is, or (3) at first didn’t know but now knows and doesn’t care, an example of both #1 and #2. This is a wake-up call to racism deniers: foul racism still exists.

George Preston Marshall, the owner who gave the team its name in 1932, was a leader in the NFL movement that officially banned Blacks, league wide, in 1933, a ban not lifted until 1947. Before the Washington team integrated in 1962, Jim Brown, as one sport writer wrote, regularly integrated the Washington end zone. Marshall had “Dixie” played before “Star Spangled Banner.” Marshall died in 1969, leaving most of his money to the creation of the Redskins Foundation, stipulating that none of its money be directed to “any purpose which supports or employs the principle of racial integration in any form.”

For half a century, Clyde Bellecourt has been in the forefront of championing human rights, civil rights, and respect for all Americans, going beyond Native American rights to the wars in Vietnam, Black civil rights, and police misconduct and brutality.

Mr. Bellecourt, co-founder and director of the American Indian Movement, directs Peacemaker Center for Indian youth, organized the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media, and is founder and Chairman of the Board of American Indian OIC, an innovative jobs program that has moved over 14,000 people from welfare to full-time employment.

At the 1991 World Series between our beloved Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves, Mr. Bellecourt challenged the disrespect Atlanta’s mascot showed to Native Americans.

The long-standing battle over the disrespect and continued use of “Redskins” has come to a head once again. “Redskin” is not a term of endearment but a term of disrespect and justification to use violence against Native Americans. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “redskin” as a term that is “usually offensive,” as other terms like “darky,” “kike,” “Sambo,” “dago,” and “N**ger.” Would the current Jewish owner of the Washington franchise change the name to the Washington Kikes?

After the NFL integrated, Marshall said he would “start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.” Current owner Snyder said he would “never” change the name.

All people have feelings and sensitivity about how they are referred to. Mr. Bellecourt and the Native American nation have indicated it is never acceptable to disrespect by name or inference the rich, proud history of America’s first Nation.

So I say once again: Mr Bellecourt is right. Americans of conscience and goodwill should stand with America’s first Nation to bring respect to all who are part of this great nation (Canada doesn’t use the term “Indian.” Canadians use “First Nation” or “Indigenous People”).

I invite Washington team owner, Daniel Snyder and Vikings Black executive Kevin Warren to join by phone on my radio program to talk with Clyde Bellecourt and answer two questions for him: (1) isn’t “never” change the name continuing George Preston Marshall’s racist legacy?” And (2) how does the policy match what the great Chief Joseph said: “I only ask of the government to be treated as all other men are treated.”

Stay tuned.


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