Before Washington’s football team played the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, thousands of demonstrators, including Native Americans, a member of Congress, and the mayor of Minneapolis, gathered outside the University of Minnesota’s TCF Stadium to tell the team to quit using “Redskins” as its name.
Local police estimated that the crowd swelled to 3,200 at its peak, while the protest’s organizers said the number was closer to 5,000, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Either way, it was larger than the estimated 3,000 that showed up before Super Bowl XXVI in 1992 — also hosted in Minneapolis — to protest for the same cause. It also far surpassed previous protests outside Washington’s games in Arizona, Houston, and Dallas, where hundreds of Native Americans and others called on Washington owner Daniel Snyder to change the team’s name.
The demonstration, organized by the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media, included speeches from Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), who has long fought to change the name; former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura; and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) was also present, as was comedian and social activist Dick Gregory. According to the Star Tribune, Amanda Blackhorse, the lead plaintiff in a suit that led to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeals Board’s invalidation of the team’s federal trademarks, also spoke, as did Ray Halbritter, the representative of the Oneida Indian Nation and its Change The Mascot campaign.
— Rep. Betty McCollum (@BettyMcCollum04) November 2, 2014
The protesters marched through the University of Minnesota campus before demonstrating outside the stadium, which is hosting Vikings home games while the team builds a new stadium.
Minnesota has been a hotbed for protests against the name for at least two decades, when the Super Bowl protests occurred. It was that event that set the stage for the original challenge to the team’s trademark protections and the media coverage that launched Native Americans’ long-held opposition to the name into the public mainstream. A similar march and protest occurred before Washington’s game in Minnesota last season, when Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) called the name “racist” and said it should change. Before this year’s game, the University of Minnesota’s president sent a letter to Washington asking it to refrain from wearing uniforms that featured the team’s logos or name and from using the logos in pre-game marketing materials (Washington wore its regular road uniforms anyway).
In addition to the protests, the Change The Mascot campaign led by Oneida and the National Congress of American Indians launched its latest radio ad against the name in Minneapolis.
“The voices of opposition are getting louder. And this week, on the sidelines of the Vikings-Washington NFL game, Minnesota takes center stage on the issue of D.C.’s racist mascot,” the ad says. “Demand that the team stop denigrating Native Americans. Show your support. Oppose racism. … Join us and stand on the right side of history.”