Washington Redskins Spokesman Says Native Americans 'Proud' Of Name, Team Will Continue To Use It Despite Recent Protest

Despite calls to retire the name and mascot of the Washington Redskins, the NFL team appears to have no plans to do so.

The issue reignited on Thursday prior to the Redskins' game against the Minnesota Vikings, as hundreds of protestors held signs and shouted chants outside of U.S. Bank Stadium to encourage the franchise to change its mascot and team name. It's not the first time that the professional football team has been the subject of such protests, though the last one in Minnesota occurred in 2014 when the two teams met in Minneapolis.

"We are not your mascot," the protestors, including some Native Americans, yelled on Thursday. Many protestors said the team's mascot is racist and offensive towards Native American tribes. One sign from a protestor read, "Viking is a job, Redskin is a racial slur," The Minnesota Star Tribute reported.

According to the Tribune, the protest began with a march from Peavey Park to the stadium and was arranged by a coalition of tribal governments, the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media and other Native American groups.

NCARSM president David Glass told Newsweek via email that the group does believe that, "at some point, the Redskins will change their name/logo."

However, Sean DeBarbieri, director of communications for the Washington Redskins, disputed such a notion in an emailed statement to Newsweek.

"We have great respect for people's right to voice their opinion on our team name. Our organization has always believed the name represents honor, respect and pride; ideals we work to uphold each and every day. As we've shared previously, we have significant local support to keep the name and a 2019 Washington Post poll reconfirmed this sentiment. Not only are Native Americans not offended by our use of the name, they are proud of it - and our organization is and will remain proud to carry the Redskins name," DeBarbieri said.

The 2019 survey is the second one conducted by the Post and the results echoed that of the newspaper's 2016 survey. The results of the August poll found that 68 percent of Native Americans weren't offended by the use of Redskins for the Washington D.C.-based football team. Those results also echo a poll conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center in 2004 where only 9 percent found the name offensive.

Newsweek reached out to four Native American tribes for comment on this story, but did not hear back by press time.

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Protesters want the Washington Redskins to change their mascot Stephen Maturen/Getty

Redskins owner Dan Snyder has also repeatedly defended the use of the name and resisted calls to change it, telling ESPN's Outside The Lines in 2014 that the team's name is about more than their mascot.

"A Redskin is a football player. A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride," Snyder said.

Despite the results of the poll and statements from the Redskins, changing a mascot, a logo, or a chant is not unheard of in sports. In 2007, the University of Illinois retired its mascot, Chief Illiniwek, and the Clevland Indians changed their logo from Chief Wahoo to a 'C' logo in 2018.

Earlier this month, the Atlanta Braves also phased out the team's Tomahawk Chop chant for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series game against the St. Louis Cardinals following comments made by Cardinals pitcher and Cherokee Nation member Ryan Helsley.

"I think it's a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general," Helsley said of the chant to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren't intellectual. They are a lot more than that. It's not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It's not. It's about the misconception of us, the Native Americans, and it devalues us and how we're perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that."

Washington Redskins Spokesman Says Native Americans 'Proud' Of Name, Team Will Continue To Use It Despite Recent Protest | Sports