Native American Groups Protest ‘Redskins’ Name Outside Washington’s Final Home Game


Native Americans protest the Washington football team's name before a 2013 game in Minnesota.

Sunday brought a merciful end to another miserable season for Washington’s NFL team, and along with it, yet another protest against the team’s “Redskins” name by Native American groups and their allies who want it changed.

Washington has faced a rash of anti-name protests in the past two years, but this one was different: it happened outside FedEx Field and, with more than 100 demonstrators, was the largest protest against the name to ever take place outside one of Washington’s home games, the Washington Post reported.

A coalition of Native American groups, including the National Congress of American Indians and its Change The Mascot campaign, organized the demonstration against the name that activists have noted is a “dictionary-defined slur.”

Before the game, protesters gathered in a church parking lot near the stadium and marched behind a large sign that read, “No honor in racist names or imagery,” a reference to Washington owner Daniel Snyder and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who have repeatedly said the name is meant to honor Native Americans.

Passing fans largely ignored the protests, according to the Post, but at times, Washington fans parked nearby confronted the protesters. One fan yelled expletives at the group as they marched, the Post’s John Woodrow Cox tweeted.

Signs at the protest mostly targeted the team, but some also took aim at the franchise’s primary sponsors like grocery chain Harris Teeter, which says on its web site that it is “proud to be the Official Grocery Store of the Washington Redskins!”

Inside the stadium, Washington fared about as well as they have all season, losing their final game in a 44-17 blowout to archrival Dallas that sent the Cowboys to the playoffs on a hot streak and Snyder’s team to a 4-12 record. It is the franchise’s ninth losing season, and sixth with five or fewer wins, since Snyder bought it in 1999.

The team has suffered challenges and defeats off the field in the fight against the name this year too. In addition to protests and radio advertisements against the name at road games in Houston, Dallas, Arizona, and Minnesota, Washington also lost six of its federal trademark protections in June, when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeals Board ruled that the name was “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus violated federal statutes preventing the trademarking of offensive terminology.

The 2014 season also brought policy changes from all four of the NFL’s television partners, which allowed their on-air broadcasters and analysts to avoid the name if they chose. Several high-profile analysts, like CBS’s Phil Simms and NBC’s Tony Dungy, said before the season they would quit using it. And more media outlets, including the Charlotte Observer and the Washington Post’s editorial board, joined the list of those that no longer put the name in print (the team did score a minor victory before Christmas when the Federal Communications Commission ruled that it would not punish broadcasters for repeatedly saying the name, though FCC Chairman Tim Wheeler has called it “offensive and derogatory“).

While the season is over, the public challenges to the name are anything but. NCAI and the Change The Mascot campaign have raised more than $20,000 to produce another web advertisement against the name. Like the “Proud To Be” video that garnered national attention last season, the video is timed to come out around the Super Bowl in February.