Hundreds of American Indians and their supporters rallied outside the Metrodome Thursday night to demand the Washington Redskins change the team’s nickname, calling it racist and disrespectful.
Carrying flags, signs and staffs and led by American Indian Movement co-founder Clyde Bellecourt, the crowd marched to the downtown stadium to hear speakers before the Minnesota Vikings played Washington.
Opponents call the Redskins’ nickname offensive to Native Americans. As drums beat, protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Little Red Sambo’s got to go.” Some carried signs with messages including “We are not cartoons! Respect us!” and “Racism is unsportsmanlike conduct.”
Mario McBrogan, 24, of Minneapolis, who is Cherokee, was there to watch the game and to support changing the Redskins’ name. He said the name should be changed “out of respect to every Native American.”
Other teams have dropped Indian mascots and nicknames, McBrogan said. “So I don’t understand why they (the Redskins) shouldn’t have to change their name. It’s obviously offensive to a culture,” he said.
Krystal Hedemann, 34, of St. Paul, a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, said it’s time to get rid of what she called racist names in sports.
“I want my children to grow up in a world without racist names,” Hedemann said.
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura spoke to the crowd, saying he always tried to avoid saying “Redskins” when covering the team as a sports broadcaster.
“This name is wrong. It’s just plain wrong,” Ventura said. He asked what would happen if a sports team in Birmingham, Alama, was named “The Slaves” and had an African-American mascot.
“What kind of outrage would there be at that? Well, this is the same thing,” Ventura said.
Redskins owner Dan Synder has called the name a “badge of honor” and said it won’t be changed.
Asked about the Redskins’ nickname at a Thursday morning news conference, current Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton called it “racist” and suggested every member of Congress should boycott the team to put pressure on its owners.
Also Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak released a statement saying the name disrespects indigenous people. Six members of the Minneapolis City Council had recently sent a letter to the team’s owner and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell calling the nickname and team mascot racist.