In response to louder calls to change the name of his football team, Dan Snyder has decided to launch a foundation subsidizing Native American causes.
“For too long,” Redskins owner Dan Snyder writes, “the struggles of Native Americans have been ignored, unnoticed and unresolved. As a team, we have honored them through our words and on the field, but now we will honor them through our actions. We commit to the tribes that we stand together with you, to help you build a brighter future for your communities.”
Snyder says that he and his staff have traveled to 26 reservations over the last four months. In response to seeing chronic poverty, alcoholism, and unemployment, Snyder says he started the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation (OAF), which features Gary Edwards, a Cherokee Indian and former deputy assistant director of the United States Secret Service, as its leader. The group has already purchased 3,000 cold-weather coats for Native Americans and helped buy a backhoe for a tribe in Nebraska.
The efforts have elicited anger from critics of the Redskins nickname. “This guy Dan Snyder is so brazen, it’s remarkable,” Deadspin writer Sean Newell opines. “Dan Snyder’s foundation to distract you from the racist slur on his letterhead is OAF.” The Big Lead dismisses the charity as Snyder’s “latest subtle PR move to come across as endlessly sincere.”
Snyder has vowed never to change the nickname so long as he owns the team. Opponents of the name have pressured the US Patent and Trademark Office to strip the Washington Redskins of protections afforded to its trademark, which would effectively allow counterfeiters to infringe on the team’s trademarks in gear with impunity. “We all respect freedom of speech, but the trademark office has rejected names which are considered offensive and they should do it now,” House minority leader Nancy Pelosi remarked earlier this month. “They can keep their name on the team, but when it comes to all the stuff–that’s serious money. So I think that is one path that we can go.”
In a sign that the NFL knows Snyder will not budge on renaming the team, commissioner Roger Goodell passionately defended the nickname at a press event attended by Breitbart Sports prior to the Super Bowl. “Let me remind you that this is a name of a football team, a football team that has had that name for eighty years and has presented the name in a way that has honored Native Americans,” Goodell informed a reporter who asked whether he would ever use ‘redskins’ as a term to describe individuals. “We recognize that there are some that don’t agree with the name and we have listened and respected that. But if you look at the numbers, including in Native American communities, in a Native American community poll, nine out of ten supported the name. Eight out of ten Americans in the general population would not like us to change the name.”
Originally the Boston Braves, the Washington Redskins came to their name not from a desire to offend American Indians but in an effort to leech off the popularity of Major League Baseball. Like the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, the Redskins took their name from the baseball team in whose park they played. When the team moved from Braves Field to Fenway Park, the franchise changed its name from the Braves to the Redskins in a move to win over the fans of the Boston Red Sox. The nickname had stuck by the time the Redskins moved from Boston to Washington in the late 1930s.