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Minnesota declares war on the Washington Redskins, slurring the team, banning names

The Minnesota Vikings are playing home games at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium while their new stadium is under construction. Moralists want the Vikings to ban the brand “Redskins” from all signage in the stadium when the two teams meet in November. The Vikings are contractually obligated to display the name, so the university president asks the Vikings (not the Redskins) owner to have the Redskins wear throwback uniforms.

If I were Mr. Snyder, I would just say “NEVER” in capital letters. He is not me.  Snyder could be diplomatic and suggest the university pick the throwback of its choice.  Every choice is a Redskins uniform.

In fairness to Minnesota, they are in a quandary. The Big Ten Conference is skeptical of Native American mascotry. They forced the University of Illinois to tone down its Fighting Illini images and to retire Chief Illinewek in 2007. Minnesota is also a western state with a sizable Native American population. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux donated $10 million to the athletic department to construct the Tribal Nations Plaza at the entrance to the stadium. Redskins fans should feel quite at home there. Minnesota has some sensitivities you don’t have elsewhere.

The university feels they must say something, I guess. Starting the conversation with “the-name -is-a-profane-slur-and-the -team-is-racist-for-using-it” is the worst way to engage the team or fans on the topic. Either the university wants to make suggestions that are heard or make a point that is ignored. They cannot have it both ways.

In saying that, Hog Heaven has been more fair to the Golden Gophers than the Gophers have been to the Redskins. “Redskin” is a slang that the team uses as a mascot. Some others, not the Redskins, have misused it as a slur. Talk to those others.

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The Redskins apply the word to the team saying nothing to or about the historic people on whom it is based. Native American fans write the team saying keep the name. Opponents of the name, “The changers,” twist use of the word into something neither team nor fans would think to use. Moralists often condemn behavior they behave in secret.

We sing “Hail to the Redskins” around here and revere the word and the team.

Changers refuse to acknowledge use of “Redskins” as a positive tied to a sports team. They are the first to curse and stereotype anyone who does so. Perhaps the reason they believe “redskin” to be a slur is because they are the very people who would use it that way, or are not nimble enough to see it any other way.

Banning words is never a solution. Don’t use any word to slur anyone ever is the better solution.

There is another problem with the University’s position. That out-of-context newspaper clipping the changers trot out to tie “red skin” to scalping is their sin. The State of Minnesota, not the Washington Redskins, offered that bounty. The State did it one year into the brutal Dakota War of 1862. Between 500 and 1,000 Minnesota settlers died in the conflict. The Dakota were expelled from the territory at the end of it. Post mortem mutilation was practiced with equal relish by both sides.

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There are roads, towns and places all over Minnesota named for leaders on both sides of that conflict. The Shakopee Souix named its casino after a village leader, Little Six (Sakpedan). None of this has anything to do with the use of a trademark.

You would think that the University of Minnesota would see the potential of using the Redskins’ visit to teach that history and its present day implications. The Washington Redskins might be willing partners in the effort. If they were asked. Nicely. The Redskins have a charitable foundation for that sort of thing.

When has a university seen banning words as an answer to anything? If there is a union for colleges, the Golden Gophers should lose its membership card.

If you are a history buff like me, you should visit the U.S.-Dakota War web site to get the story from all sides. The Minnesota Historical Society has a one-page summary of events and major players.

Regular people are more discerning than universities and congressmen. The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal ran an online poll asking whether the Vikings and the U. of Minnesota should ban the word “Redskins” when the team visits in November.

As I write this, sentiment was running 89 91 percent “No.”

Sports fans get it that mascots are a reflection of their team and not of real people. A Native American Redskins fan told me that.

Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.

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