Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder on Monday announced the formation of a Native American advocacy organization to address matters facing the community that he said are more important than the controversy surrounding his NFL team’s name.
“They have genuine issues they truly are worried about, and our team’s name is not one of them,” Snyder wrote in a letter sent to Redskins fans, announcing the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.
“I’ve been encouraged by the thousands of fans across the country who support keeping the Redskins tradition alive,” Snyder wrote. “Most — by overwhelming majorities — find our name to be rooted in pride for our shared heritage and values.”
The NFL team has been under immense pressure for decades to change what many consider an offensive name, but the heat turned up in 2013 after panelists at a February Smithsonian conference deemed the moniker “racist.”
Dozens of local and national news outlets and both the District of Columbia government and Congress have called on the owner to change the team’s name.
But billionaire owner Snyder disagrees and has adamantly refused in the past to give in to demands to rename the Redskins.
“We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps,” Snyder told USA Today in May 2013.
In Monday’s letter, Snyder said the criticism did prompt him to open a dialogue with and find out what issues affect Native Americans.
“I wanted and needed to hear firsthand what Native Americans truly thought of our name, our logo, and whether we were, in fact, upholding the principle of respect in regard to the Native American community,” Snyder wrote.
“The mission of the Original Americans Foundation is to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities. With open arms and determined minds, we will work as partners to begin to tackle the troubling realities facing so many tribes across our country,” he continued.
Snyder wrote in the letter that the organization’s establishment follows four months of travel and meetings with tribal groups that opened his eyes to the “heart wrenching” socioeconomic realities many Native Americans across the country face.
He added that in those travels, he was by those within the community that the Redskins name was not offensive to Native Americans and instead celebrated their culture and values — but the Redskins as an organization needed to do more.