Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who has vowed to “NEVER” change the team’s name wrote season-ticket holders on Wednesday to inform them that the “heritage” of the Redskins name must be preserved.
In a letter addressed to, “Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation,” Snyder begins by writing:
As loyal fans, you deserve to know that everyone in the Washington Redskins organization — our players, coaches and staff — are truly privileged to represent this team and everything it stands for. We are relentlessly committed to our fans and to the sustained long-term success of this franchise.
That’s why I want to reach out to you — our fans — about a topic I wish to address directly: the team name, “Washington Redskins.” While our focus is firmly on the playing field, it is important that you hear straight from me on this issue. As the owner of the Redskins and a lifelong fan of the team, here is what I believe and why I believe it.
After writing about his experiences growing up a Redskins fan, Snyder writes, “Our past isn’t just where we came from — it’s who we are”:
As some of you may know, our team began 81 years ago — in 1932 — with the name “Boston Braves.” The following year, the franchise name was changed to the “Boston Redskins.” On that inaugural Redskins team, four players and our Head Coach were Native Americans. The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.
In 1971, our legendary coach, the late George Allen, consulted with the Red Cloud Athletic Fund located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and designed our emblem on the Redskins helmets. Several years later, Coach Allen was honored by the Red Cloud Athletic Fund. On the wall at our Ashburn, Virginia, offices is the plaque given to Coach Allen — a source of pride for all of us. “Washington Redskins is more than a name we have called our football team for over eight decades. It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect — the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.
Snyder writes that he has “listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name. But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too.” He then asks readers to “consider the following facts concerning” the team’s name:
1) The highly respected Annenberg Public Policy Center polled nearly 1,000 self-identified Native Americans from across the continental U.S. and found that 90% of Native Americans did not find the team name “Washington Redskins” to be “offensive.”
2) In an April 2013 Associated Press survey, 79% of the respondents stated the Washington Redskins should not change their name, while only 1 1% believed the team’s name should change.
Paul Woody, a columnist for the Richmond Times Dispatch, interviewed three leaders of Virginia Native American tribes this May. They were all quoted by Mr. Woody as stating that the team name doesn’t offend them — and their comments strongly supported the name “Washington Redskins.” Also in May, SiriusXM NFL Radio hosted Robert Green, the longtime and recently retired Chief of the Fredericksburg-area Patawomeck Tribe, who said, among other things:
“Frankly, the members of my tribe — the vast majority — don’t find it offensive. I’ve been a Redskins fan for years. And to be honest with you, I would be offended if they did change [the name, Redskins … This is] an attempt by somebody … to completely remove the Indian identity from anything and pretty soon … you have a wipeout in society of any reference to Indian people … You can’t rewrite history — yes there were some awful bad things done to our people over time, but naming the Washington football team the Redskins, we don’t consider to be one of those bad things.”
Snyder then says in the letter that he respects “the opinions of those who disagree” and wants “them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn. But we cannot ignore our 81 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country.”
“After 81 years, the team name ‘Redskins’ continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come,” Snyder writes. “We are Redskins Nation and we owe it to our fans and coaches and players, past and present, to preserve that heritage.”