WASHINGTON — Civil rights groups sent a letter to media organizations today asking that they not use the Washington Redskins’ name as the team plays the New York Giants on Thanksgiving, arguing they should respect a day symbolizing unity between Native Americans and Americans descended from immigrants.
“We are asking that you honor the spirit of the holiday by pledging to refrain from using the Washington team’s R-word name in your coverage of the game,” said the letter signed by Change the Mascot, NAACP, National Urban League, Advancement Project, Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Demos, PICO National Network, Race Forward, UnidosUS, National Congress of American Indians, and Oneida Indian Nation.
“Thanksgiving is often the only major American holiday that brings Native people and their history into the national conversation. Using the holiday to promote the Washington team’s derogatory name will further marginalize Native Americans who have already experienced a history of oppression and violence,” the letter states. “Repeating the Washington football team’s name on Thanksgiving Day encourages people across the country to perpetuate this painful racial slur.”
Redskins owner Dan Snyder has vowed to never change the team’s name, saying in a statement last year that “the Washington Redskins team, our fans and community have always believed our name represents honor, respect and pride.”
Snyder argued a 2016 poll in which 90 percent of Native Americans said they weren’t offended by the name “shows Native Americans agree.”
“While the Washington franchise’s management has claimed the team name honors Native Americans, nothing could be further from the truth,: the new letter sent to news organizations continues. “The name is a dictionary-defined racial slur that was screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands. The owner who gave the team this dishonorable name was George Preston Marshall – an infamous segregationist who played a leading role in trying to stop the NFL from integrating.”
“Despite what some suggest, the use of this slur is not a victimless crime. Social science research has proven that the promotion of the R-word has significantly harmed Native Americans, especially Native youth.”
The Giants-Redskins game will be broadcast on NBC at 8:30 p.m. EST on Thanksgiving.
The groups said Snyder’s “insensitive intransigence does not mean that media organizations covering the team must also continue to promote this racial slur and perpetuate the problems caused by its use.”
“To be clear, we are not asking that you stop covering the Washington team – we are simply asking that you respect Native Americans by not using the team name… at a time when our political debate is so polarized, media organizations should be able to agree to not explicitly promote a racial slur.”