University of Minnesota officials have told the Washington Redskins that their name is offensive – and that they don’t want the team to use it, say it, or sell anything with the name on it when the NFL team visits the campus stadium to play the Minnesota Vikings in November.
“The University of Minnesota finds the name of the Washington football team—and other sports team names that promote negative and harmful stereotypes—offensive and inappropriate,” university officials said in email to The College Fix. “The university has also asked the Vikings to refrain from using the Washington team name in promotional materials and announcements and from selling related memorabilia during the game.”
In addition to this request, the university has pledged to host “positive educational events” ahead of the game in order to offset its impact on the campus community, and the university’s president has added his name to the list of people who have called on the mascot to be replaced.
Campus leaders’ decision appears prompted in part by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), who fired off a strongly worded letter to campus leaders and the Vikings owner earlier this summer that alleged that the Washington Redskins’ visit should be condemned because their name is an “offensive racial slur” and their presence would violate the college’s anti-discrimination policy.
That university policy states in part that the campus 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.”
Rep. McCollum’s letter also came on the heels of a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to nix the Redskins’ trademark registration. Although the decision does not prevent the team from selling its merchandise, it was widely regarded as a victory for opponents of the Redskins name.
Some link these recent efforts with a public condemnation of the Redskins name by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which donated $10 million toward the construction of University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium, where the game will be played.
University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, who was copied on Rep. McCollum’s original letter, sent a reply to the congresswoman earlier this month in which he agreed with her that “the current name is offensive and should be replaced.”
Yet at the time of Rep. McCollum’s original letter, in which she refrained from asking for the game to be canceled or relocated, the University of Minnesota was more indifferent about the issue, saying in a statement to The College Fix that they were currently “looking into” how the university could best respond. That time has apparently come, and the university is not mincing words.
Kaler, in his letter to Rep. McCollum, acknowledges the contract between the university and the Minnesota Vikings does not give the campus the authority to require that the term “Redskins” not be used.
University leaders have said they hope the Vikings will honor their requests not to use the name or sell Redskins merchandise, and Kaler said the team is “participating in ongoing discussions with the university and the American Indian community to ensure a peaceful, positive and safe event for fans while also providing space for protest and expression.”
Some have predicted Minnesota student groups will protest the Washington Redskins’ visit.
A Redskins spokesperson told The Washington Post that the team disapproves of the University of Minnesota’s efforts to eliminate the use of the Redskins name at TCF Bank Stadium.
“We have met many native Americans from Minnesota who agree with our position and feel we are using the term correctly and honorably,” Redskins spokesperson Tony Wyllie told the newspaper.
Vikings executive vice president of public affairs Lester Bagley told the Post that the team is still deciding how to handle the university’s requests.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder recently defended the team’s name, citing other professional sports teams with Native American names, including the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The University of Minnesota is hosting all Vikings games at TCF Bank Stadium for the next two seasons while the team awaits construction of its new stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The Vikings have reportedly agreed to pay the university $250,000 for each game.
College Fix contributor Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.