A new foundation started by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is intended to help Native American groups nationwide. Although the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation was announced today, it has already started assisting Native Americans across the country.
During the extreme cold temperatures this past winter that hit most of the central United States, the Foundation supplied several tribes in the Plains with over 3000 winter coats and assisted Native American youth basketball teams with shoes for players. The foundation also purchased a backhoe for a tribe in Nebraska.
Snyder also announced that this is just a start. The owner of the NFL’s Washington Redskins released news that the foundation has over 40 projects already in the works. The news is being viewed by some as a sort of reparation by Snyder to Native Americans for not changing the team logo and name and by others as an appropriate step forward by Snyder and the organization.
The logo, a profile of a Native American, and the Redskins name has been a source of controversy over many years. Last year, during away games in Denver and Minnesota, hundreds gathered outside the stadiums to protest the team and the owners decision to continuing to use the Redskins name and Native American likeness.
The Redskins are not the first team to face protests over a Native American mascot. The National Basketball Associations Golden State Warriors changed their logo from a depiction of a cartoonish Native American to golden image of the State of California in 1971, and the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League changed their mascot to a Hawk. The Blackhawks retained the image of a Native American on their uniforms in honor of Black Hawk, a Native American Chief.
Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves have faced similar protests and have made some concessions. The Indians have almost totally eliminated the likeness of their mascot Chief Wahoo from uniforms and the stadium. The Braves mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa has been replaced by two mascots, Homer and Rally.
Colleges and high schools have also run into protests for the use of Native American likenesses throughout the years. Some have volunteered or have been forced to change to a more politically correct mascot. However, many have chosen not to make any mascot changes.
The Dallas Cowboys started being called America’s Team in 1978, the new foundation could be a brilliant tactic to make the Washington Redskins the Native America’s Team and keep from changing the name or logo. Working with tribes throughout the country will not only assist needy people, but could also increase the team fan base.
While the fight over the use of the Native American likeness will potentially go on for years, the start of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation by the team’s owner should be a much-needed resource for Native Americans from coast to coast. Until the team goes on the road next season, the public will likely not know how far the new foundation will go toward alleviating the protests the Redskins faced last year.
Commentary by Carl Auer