America’s top civil rights organizations turned their attention to the name of Washington’s professional football team this week, telling owner Dan Snyder that it was time to drop the name “Redskins.” The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which includes more than 200 groups including the ACLU and NAACP, unanimously approved a resolution calling on the team to change the name.
“This is not someone else’s problem, this is everyone’s problem,” Wade Henderson, CEO of The Leadership Conference, said in a release. “Having an offensive slur for the Washington team name teaches young people to celebrate the denigration of people for being who they are. That has a damaging psychic impact on individuals, as well as on the entire nation. Changing the name is the right thing do, regardless of how comfortable fans have become with it. And when Mr. Snyder does decide to put the slur away, I think he’ll discover a new market of consumers who recognize the dignity of all people and want to honor that with the sports teams they support.”
“Athletics are supposed to demonstrate the best of who we are,” Hillary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, said, according to the Washington Post. “We all hope they change it very soon. There is really no excuse for not doing so.”
The Oneida Nation and other Native American groups like the National Congress of American Indians has led the intensified fight against the name, running radio ads, organizing protests, and holding events to highlight their opposition to it. The participation of civil rights groups, however, is another sign that the fight is gaining allies in groups that do not necessarily include Native Americans. Last week, more than 60 D.C.-area clergy signed onto a letter to the NFL and Snyder, urging them to drop “the offensive and inappropriate name of Washington’s NFL team.”
The coalition of faith leaders included members from D.C.’s Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist communities. An assortment of politicians from Congress and the D.C. City Council have also come out against the name, as has President Obama, who said he’d consider changing it were he the team’s owner.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell met with leaders from the Oneida Nation about the name in October, but Snyder reportedly told Goodell prior to the meeting that he still had no intention of changing the name, which he maintains is used to honor Native Americans. Snyder and the team showed no signs of change in a statement released Thursday night.
“The Washington Redskins hold these civil rights leaders in high regard, but we respectfully believe they are mischaracterizing decades of honor and respect toward America’s Indian heritage that our name represents for generations of Redskin fans and Native Americans alike,” the statement said, according to the Post. “We understand these leaders hold their views deeply, but so do hundreds and hundreds of Native Americans who have written to us expressing an opposite point of view.”