By ADAM RITSCHER
— MINNEAPOLIS — On Nov. 7 over 800 people turned out to protest the racist name of the Washington Redskins football team. The protest was held just before the Washington team was scheduled to play the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The event was organized by the American Indian Movement, the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, Idle No More, and other activist organizations.
The protest began at the American Indian Center in the heart of Minneapolis’s Native American community. From there, protesters marched to the Metrodome. One of the most popular chants that echoed through the streets during the march was, “Hey hey, ho ho, little red Sambo’s got to go!”
Throughout the event, signs and speakers stressed how offensive and inappropriate the Washington Redskins name is. The American Indian Movement offered up this analogy: “Imagine a Protestant sports team that chose years ago to adopt a Catholic name that was a degrading slur against the Catholic people. Imagine the Protestant team had no Catholic players or owners or heritage. In fact, imagine the Protestants actually massacred Catholic people throughout history and enslaved them until recently.
“Then, imagine the Protestant team’s mascot was a caricature of the beloved Pope, complete with head-dress and robes and staff. Imagine the fans incited at every game to chant their versions of sacred Catholic music and song, to use sacred Catholic artifacts in jest, to dress in ridiculous versions of sacred religious cloth, all in front of Catholic fans.
“Imagine the Protestant team put their own manufactured image of the Pope on their helmets and uniforms, to celebrate the vulgar and demeaning name of the team at every game. Imagine the Catholic people asking year after year for the Protestant Team to stop this outrage, but they would not stop. And finally, to complete this analogy, imagine all newspapers and sports broadcasters and internet sites and clothing manufacturers and advertisers and all commentators choosing to carry all of this desecration of Catholic people and culture to Catholic children and their parents, knowing full well that it was horrible for Catholics to experience, and absolutely damaging to the self concept of their children.”
This isn’t the first time that protests have been held in the Twin Cities to protest racist names of sports teams. For example, there was a protest against the Atlanta Braves when they played the Minnesota Twins in the 1991 World Series. There was also a protest at the 1992 Super Bowl when the Redskins played the Buffalo Bills in Minneapolis.
Recently, the movement against racist sports team names has been gathering momentum. Similar though smaller protests have taken place in other cities where the Washington team played, such as Green Bay and Denver. Even a number of elected officials, such as Minnesota Governor Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, have felt compelled to come out and declare that “Redskins” is a racist name.
The credit for this growing anti-racist sentiment belongs to the activists who have labored for decades around this issue. We salute the organizers of the Nov. 7 protest, and pledge our support to the ongoing movement against the racism in American society of which racist sports team names are just the tip of the iceberg.