The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the University of Minnesota is pressuring the Minnesota Vikings to elide the “Redskins” name from “promotional and game date materials” when the teams meet in their November 2 game at university’s s stadium.
The newspaper offers an August 1 letter from the university president to a congresswoman as proof of the attempt to censor the name. The letter contends that the school is “working with the Vikings to make every effort to eliminate the use of Washington’s team name.”
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum wrote to Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf in June asking Wilf to condemn the “Redskins” name. University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler was copied on the letter. McCollum called the name “that hateful slur” and urged Wilf to disassociate himself from it, as NFL teams equally split the profits accrued from sales of their licensed merchandise. She wrote, “The time for debate has ended–the name of the Washington franchise is clearly an offensive racial slur. I urge you, as an NFL team owner, to not remain silent on this matter any longer.”
On Wednesday night, Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie said that the university is mistaken to ban the team name. He asserted, “We have met many Native Americans from Minnesota who agree with our position and feel we are using the term correctly and honorably.”
Simultaneously, Lester Bagley, the Vikings executive vice president for public affairs, asserted that the team is still examining how involved with the plan it wants to be, admitting that the university and the team met in late July, and will discuss the issue until November. He said, “We take the issue very seriously, but we’re just getting ready for our season and we’ve been very focused on training camp and the preseason, and to be honest, we don’t have a game plan for our Nov. 2 game versus Washington.”
McCollum’s letter was triggered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s cancellation of the Redskins’ trademark registration. McCollum stated that by virtue of the Redskins appearing at the university’s stadium, the university’s Board of Regents’ policy on affirmative action, diversity, and equal opportunity would be usurped. She added that funds from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux tribe helped fund the stadium.
The Vikings are using the university’s stadium until their new stadium is constructed, and paying the university $250,000 per game.
Kaler answered McCollum that he agreed the Redskins name is “offensive and should be replaced.” Kaler continued by saying that the university intends to prevent the use of the Redskins name on game day, adding that both the team and the university are consulting with the “American Indian community to ensure a peaceful, positive and safe event for fans while also providing space for protest and expression.”