Activists Praise Labor Department for Requesting No Redskins Gear at Football Party

Portrait of the female body (Kike Calvo via AP Images)

A movement to try to ban the Washington Redskins’ name and logo is praising the Department of Labor for banning Redskins’ apparel at a staff football party.

The Washington Times reported on the tailgate-style office party for employees in the Center for Civil Rights. The invitation said, “It has been respectfully requested that employees voluntarily refrain from wearing clothing or other sports memorabilia that promote Washington D.C.’s professional football team, the Redskins, or other teams that use names, characters, etc. that may portray American Indians or other cultures in a derogatory manner.”

When forwarding the invitation, an office manager added: “Please join me in promoting an inclusive environment for all employees and be conscientious about how we represent our values as a civil rights office.”

The Labor Department said there’s no department-wide “policy on sports teams” and the managers paid for the party without department funds.

Jackie Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, and Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter said in a statement released by the Change the Mascot campaign that the Labor Department should be applauded “for seeking to foster a more inclusive and respectful environment for its employees by recognizing the serious harm caused by use of the demeaning and degrading R-word racial slur.”

“Given that the use of the R-word is a civil rights issue, it is particularly heartening to see the Labor Department’s Center for Civil Rights take a stand against the epithet,” they said. “Government bodies, schools, places of employment, sports and civic leaders, civil rights and religious organizations have all made it clear that the mascot is offensive and its use creates hostility and harms people of color.”

“Ending the use of the R-word as the Washington NFL team’s mascot is not an issue of political correctness, it is a civil rights issue.”

The White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education stepped into the controversy and offered government assistance in a report issued last month, which states schools “should consider the historical significance and context of Native school mascots and imagery in determining whether they have a negative effect on students, including Native American students.”

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the report recommended, should “explore providing guidance to schools, district, states, and institutions of higher education regarding civil rights compliance when hostile environments are created by the potentially harmful Native imagery and symbolism, including school mascots and logos. OCR, states, and school districts should work with schools to develop and implement actions to change potentially harmful imagery and symbolism.”