Daniel Snyder Dismissed Tribal Member Who Told Him ‘Redskins’ Was Offensive


Washington owner Daniel Snyder (left) and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

A Native American tribal member said Monday that Daniel Snyder, owner of Washington’s professional football team, dismissed him when he told Snyder that he found the team’s continued use of “Redskins” problematic.

Jim Enote, the director of the A:shiwi A:wan Museum and Heritage Center, Zuni, New Mexico, said he spoke with Snyder last November about “A:shiwi heritage, our deep knowledge of cosmological processes, and of our artistic sensibilities and scholarly accomplishments as contributions to the universal human experience.” But when Enote brought up the name of the team, Snyder had none of it.

“Later I walked Snyder to his car, put my hand on his shoulder and told him I was not pleased with the Redskins mascot and team name and he snapped back with, ‘We are a football team,'” Enote wrote in a piece titled “We Are Not Redskins” published Monday on the Indian Country Today Media Network. “I saw at that moment quite clearly, my objection did not concern Snyder.”

The franchise held an event with the Zuni Puebla tribe this week in which it sought to purchase artwork from the tribe’s artists. “The Zunis and the Washington Redskins are economic partners, and successful ones at that. Today we expanded that relationship, creating more jobs and economic opportunity, and we hope that Mr. Enote doesn’t object to the relationship that his tribe has agreed to,” the team told USA Today in a statement.

Snyder spent last week on a short media tour defending the name and dismissing its critics.

“A Redskin is a football player,” Snyder said in an interview with ESPN. “A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskin fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride. Hopefully winning. And it’s a positive. Taken out of context — you can take things out of context all over the place — but in this particular case, it is what it is. It’s very obvious.”

During a separate interview on ESPN980, the Washington-area radio station Snyder owns, Snyder said criticism of the name was “chit-chat, cocktail talk,” and his allies have maintained that criticism of the name is largely coming from out-of-touch politicians pushing a “white, liberal agenda” against it.

Enote, however, is only the latest member of a Native American tribe to speak out against it. Native Americans have opposed it for decades, and the National Congress of American Indians, the nation’s largest Native American organization, opposed the name in a 1968 resolution. The Oneida Indian Nation of New York and NCAI organized a campaign against the name since 2013. Other Native Americans, like Suzan Shown Harjo, have long called for a change and filed claims against its trademark protections — the latest of which was successful — with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), one of just two Native American members of Congress, is among the numerous politicians who have called for a name change. The team was also rebuffed by a Nevada tribal leader it wanted to meet in May, as USA Today’s Erik Brady reported, and the Fort Yuma Quechan (Kwatsan) Tribe in Arizona recently refused a donation offered to it by Snyder’s Original Americans Foundation, which was roundly criticized by Native American leaders and activists when it was formed in May.

The team picked up another non-Native American ally inside the sports world this week when Los Angeles Lakers president Jeannie Buss tweeted her own small protest of the name. In drafting her fantasy football team, Buss tweeted, she avoided all Washington players “in deference to those offended by the name.” Buss is among the highest-ranking executives inside sports to publicly take a stand against the name — the only NFL official who has is Green Bay Packers chief executive Mark Murphy, who said the name was “very derogatory to a lot of people” last year.

The University of Minnesota, meanwhile, said last week that it would ask the team to wear throwback uniforms that do not feature its name or logo when Washington visits the Minnesota Vikings in November. The university’s public stadium is hosting all Vikings home games while the team completes construction on its new venue. The university has also asked the team not to use the name on promotional materials or merchandise at the game.

Snyder and his team have not wilted. The owner has long insisted that he will “NEVER” change the name. Former Washington kicker Mark Moseley this week said that “somebody would have to drop a bomb on FedEx Field to get us to change” the name.