The NFL team from Washington should be barred from using its team name, the Redskins, on University of Minnesota turf, an anti-racism coalition said Thursday at a news conference outside TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The group said university administrators have been unwilling to meet with them to discuss the issue. Clyde Bellecourt, founding member of the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media, called everyone at the university from the president to the students “scholastically retarded” when it comes to American Indian issues.
In a lengthy released statement, the university said it cannot regulate expression by private parties on its property. In leasing the stadium to the NFL team, “the University did not get the right to exclude the Vikings because of the offensive name of its opposing team,” the statement said.
Thursday’s exchange didn’t bring the issue closer to resolution. The Washington team has shown no willingness to change its name or to have players wear anything other than their regular helmets and jerseys with their mascot’s logo.
The coalition vowed to keep fighting and to hold a rally involving “thousands” outside the stadium on game day, Nov. 2.
The Vikings are leasing the university’s stadium for two seasons while their new $1 billion stadium is built on the site of the former Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis.
The university and the activists actually want the same things. Earlier this month, the university publicly asked the Washington team to keep the Redskins name off jerseys, promotional materials, announcements and merchandise sold during the game. The activists say they also want fans barred from wearing “denigrating face paint” or headwear.
The national coalition said it is considering a lawsuit if its demands aren’t met. Members of the group said they believe the university has unilateral authority to stop the use of the Redskins’ name on the campus facility. They cited the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination in public places.
The university disagreed with that interpretation.
“As much as the university agrees with the National Coalition in denouncing the name of the Washington team,” it doesn’t believe there is a legal basis for preventing a scheduled game with the Washington team, the statement said.
The Vikings are required to comply with nondiscrimination laws, meaning they must provide fans equal access to the facility with regard to race, religion, gender, age and sexual orientation policy, the same rules that applied at the Metrodome, the university said.
At the news conference, one coalition member carried a sign that said the Redskins name “celebrates the murder of men, women and children by scalping” and is “denigrating, discriminatory hate speech.”
Bellecourt said the name derived from the way blood rolled down the skin of an Indian who had been scalped by settlers.
Among those at the event was Henry Boucha, an Ojibwe from Warroad, Minn., and an Olympic hockey silver medalist. He called the name “one of the most horrific words in history.”
Former Vikings player Joey Browner, who said he has American Indian heritage, said, “We’re not mascots.”
The Washington team’s spokesman, Tony Wyllie, didn’t respond to a request for comment, but previously has said the team believes it is using the term “correctly and honestly.”
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747