The Washington Redskins are set to play the Minnesota Vikings at the University of Minnesota on Nov. 2, but one Democratic lawmaker has lodged a complaint against those plans, saying the Redskins’ visit would violate a campus diversity policy because the team’s name is “racist.”
Underscoring that, an officer of the American Indian Student Cultural Center and a U of M native student told The College Fix he predicts the game will prompt campus protests.
The game is slated to take place at the public university’s outdoor TCF Bank Stadium, and Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) states in a strongly worded letter to the Vikings’ owner that the “presence of the Washington franchise and their racist name on the University of Minnesota campus would be in violation of the Board of Regents’ Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action Policy.”
The policy states in part that the university must “establish and nurture an environment … that actively acknowledges and values equity and is free from racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice, intolerance or harassment.”
“The name of the Washington franchise is clearly an offensive racial slur,” she wrote in a letter dated one day after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled to cancel legal protections for the trademarked Redskins of Washington, D.C.
She CC’d more than a dozen people on the letter, including local tribal leaders, the University of Minnesota president, and the chairman of the university board of regents.
McCollum, in her letter, does not use the word “Redskins.” Citing the fact that all NFL franchises profit equally from the sale of licensed merchandise, McCollum asked Wilf if he wants to “continue to profit from a name so hurtful to our Native American brothers and sisters.”
Her hope, she stated, is that the Minnesota Vikings will no longer benefit from the “commercialization of that hateful slur.”
She also mentioned one of Minnesota’s tribal nations contributed to the funding of TCF Bank Stadium, and a plaza at the stadium was built to recognize Minnesota’s many tribal nations.
So far, the University of Minnesota has been noncommittal in its response to the letter.
“The university is very sensitive to the use of sports team names that promote stereotypes,” said campus spokeswoman Julie Christensen in an emailed statement to The College Fix. “The U of M strives to create an environment for faculty, staff, students and visitors that acknowledges and values equity and diversity.”
While the university cannot actually prevent the game from being played, she added, “we are looking into this issue to determine how the U community can best respond.”
Brandon Alkire, an officer of the American Indian Student Cultural Center and a U of M native student, said he was satisfied with Rep. McCollum’s letter.
Alkire, who said he cannot comment on behalf of the AISCC board, said the group has not published an official opinion on the matter, since the board does not convene until the fall.
“The Regents policy is very clear about keeping the campus climate discrimination-free,” Alkire said in an interview with The College Fix.
He said he is “disappointed” that the Washington Redskins would continue to use a “derogatory name and mascot.”
“Fifty years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been signed and yet we are still fighting for the most simplistic of recognition, to be considered human,” Alkire added.
In the meantime, Alkire says he has made inquiries into the “permits, reservations, or repercussions” of organizing student protests at the game, but has yet to hear back from the university regarding the official rules.
“I, personally, would be part of a protest if one was organized, and I know that there probably will be one,” he said.
College Fix contributor Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.
IMAGES: Main/Redskins Facebook screenshot; Inside/Betty McCollum website screenshot