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From MinnCentric


Vikings Caught in Redskins Controversy

The Minnesota Vikings find themselves wedged in the middle of a controversy not of their own doing. On one hand it’s a refreshing change that the Vikes aren’t the ones causing a hullabaloo. On the other hand, it seems they’re a magnet for controversy even when, as is the case here, they’re taking on collateral damage.
Image courtesy of Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
The controversy in question: the ongoing push by the University of Minnesota to prevent Washington’s NFL football team from using their “Redskins” moniker when they visit TCF Bank Stadium to play the Vikings Nov. 2.

As you know, TCF Bank Stadium is on lease to the Vikings for the next two seasons while the new stadium is being built. As you may also know, the University wants no part of the Redskins. They don’t want the name used or the familiar logo on the helmet. They’ve asked that the team wear their old helmets that just have the fancy “R” on the side. In a statement, the University called the term “Redskins” offensive and inappropriate.

Obviously, the Washington organization agrees to disagree. On Thursday they filed an appeal of the earlier U.S. Patent Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruling that ordered the cancellation of the Redskins' trademark registration. So they’re not giving up the fight. Yet.

My point here is not to debate whether the R-word is, in fact, racist. It is, and you’ll not convince me otherwise. Instead, I’m predicting this particular controversy might very well be the next key step in forcing team owner Daniel Snyder to finally change the name. If the U.S. Patent office doesn’t hit Snyder’s wallet hard enough to force a change, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might have to wield his power and make it happen. Goodell can’t afford to let this situation pit owner against owner.

A substantial segment of the public thinks the R-word is racist and is calling for a change. That hasn’t been enough. But if other more powerful outside forces come into play and create a schism between one NFL team and another, things could escalate.

To this point, the Vikings have had to walk a fine line in addressing the matter.

“Not only do we have a significant Native American population in Minnesota, but the Vikings have strong relationships with several tribes in the state,” team spokesman Lester Bagley told the Minneapolis Star Tribune last week. “At the same time, the Vikings are one of 32 NFL teams, and NFL policies obligate us to operate and market the game as we would any other game against any other NFL opponent.”

“The Vikings are one of 32 NFL teams, and NFL policies obligate us…” Translation: “Our hands are basically tied. If Daniel Snyder doesn’t want to change his team name and if commissioner Goodell won’t make him change his team name, then we (have no choice but to) stand arm-in-arm with them. Protect the (NFL) shield. Present a unified front.”

Ultimately the team from Washington will be forced to change its name. It’s not a matter of if, only when. Eventually, the cacophony of protest will drown out the feeble attempts by the tone deaf in the Washington organization to uphold the name as something honorable. Maybe someday those in their fan base that can’t distinguish between loyalty to a brand and common decency will also see the light.

At some point soon Zygi Wilf might have to call up commissioner Goodell and say, “Look, I’m all for unity amongst NFL teams and protecting the shield and all that jazz, but enough is enough.”

What will push Wilf to that point?

Will it take increased pressure from the University of Minnesota? Will it take more legislators in St. Paul – you know, the ones who helped him get his new stadium built – asking Zygi to take a stand? What if hundreds or even thousands of the state’s Native American population protest more and protest louder? When the Redskins played at Mall of America Field last Nov. 7, the R-word was loudly protested before kickoff in a demonstration outside the Metrodome. You can bet those same folks – and many, many more – will return for this year’s game. In fact, plans are already underway according to the Star Tribune, and organizers hope to draw several thousand activists this time.

Between the U.S. Patent office and pressure from the U of M, Goodell might have to compel Snyder before November to announce a change. It’s one thing when all the ire is aimed at the team in question. It’s another when a second team (in this case the Vikings) is sucked into the mess and thrown under the bus for not taking a stand. Something has to give and the protest over this game might be just the fulcrum for change.


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11 Comments

Very interesting... It is absolutely an offensive name, and I think it would be great if Wilf and others would go together to stand up for that. I don't think they will, but it would be nice.

CharacterGroove
Aug 15 2014 07:18 AM
I hope the U of M actually has some pull on this matter. (Hard to know what they conceded with the NFL money.) It would be a good context for a small, yet not subtle protest.

And yes, it's a matter of when, not if, our nation's capital gets a new name for its football club.
strumdatjag
Aug 15 2014 09:00 AM

It is offensive, and so is Chief Wahoo (but NoDak should be able to be called the Fighting Sioux, unless people want to rid the team of "DAKOTA" as well, which is an Indian Name). 

Nevertheless, I have a solution.  Change the name of the Washington DC Football Team to the District of Columbia EXPLORERS.  Why?   Because the District of Columbia is named after Christopher Columbus, the EXPLORER who discovered America (an American Indian Movement Activist even thought this was funny!). 

trevor.aufderheide
Aug 15 2014 09:22 AM

^ I honestly can't tell whether or not this is sarcasm. I'll assume that it's not.

 

Naming a football team after someone who brutalized and enslaved Native populations upon arriving in the Americas is on par with the current Washington nickname. Columbus also didn't "discover" America, as there were many indigenous populations here who knew the land themselves.

 

Not to mention your subsequent justification of your proposal is akin to the "well, I have a black friend" defense.

While I'm all aboard the group that finds the name racist and outdated in today's world, I find it curious why the U didn't try to work this stuff in to the lease when they signed it with the Vikings. I mean they had to know there was a chance that Washington may play here. The name will change someday, it's not an if but rather a when with this much noise being made about it. To those who a really offended by the name, they just need to bide their time until the corporate entity that is the NFL says enough is enough and forces the change.
Bo Mitchell
Aug 15 2014 09:53 AM

I'm hoping the game at TCF Bank helps lead to a name change, but not naive enough to know that change could take much longer. It will certainly be interesting to see how it develops.

mike wants wins
Aug 15 2014 09:55 AM
I agree with Bo.

 

A substantial segment of the public thinks the R-word is racist and is calling for a change.

 

Is this actually the case? I've yet to see definitive proof that there's any sort of segment of the NFL fandom at large that is even interested in this issue, let alone "calling for a change." People squawking on Twitter does not a public movement make.

 

I respect that the University is making a statement, but it's really a poor decision. They're bringing the Vikings and the Wilfs into a discussion that to this point, no NFL owner has wanted to participate in. There is a time and place for activism, and there is a time and place for business. Confusing the two, and forcing the Vikings into this discussion, is a blunder. Zygi Wilf isn't going to openly call for a name change, and making any kind of statement, on either side of the issue, is only going to drum up controversy that the Vikings (for a change) had no hand in making.

 

This isn't the way you treat an organization that is making substantial investments that will improve your university's infrastructure for the long-term. Sure, U of M is providing a service for 20 days over a two year period, but they're gaining a little more than they're giving. Forcing the Wilfs into an awkward situation, where any statement they make is potentially the wrong one, isn't being a good partner.

 

Now give me my pizza.

Bo Mitchell
Aug 15 2014 10:26 AM

Is this actually the case? I've yet to see definitive proof that there's any sort of segment of the NFL fandom at large that is even interested in this issue, let alone "calling for a change." People squawking on Twitter does not a public movement make.

 

I respect that the University is making a statement, but it's really a poor decision. They're bringing the Vikings and the Wilfs into a discussion that to this point, no NFL owner has wanted to participate in. There is a time and place for activism, and there is a time and place for business. Confusing the two, and forcing the Vikings into this discussion, is a blunder. Zygi Wilf isn't going to openly call for a name change, and making any kind of statement, on either side of the issue, is only going to drum up controversy that the Vikings (for a change) had no hand in making.

 

This isn't the way you treat an organization that is making substantial investments that will improve your university's infrastructure for the long-term. Sure, U of M is providing a service for 20 days over a two year period, but they're gaining a little more than they're giving. Forcing the Wilfs into an awkward situation, where any statement they make is potentially the wrong one, isn't being a good partner.

 

Now give me my pizza.

 

Article on a very recent poll by California State University, San Bernadino on the matter: http://www.buzzfeed....al-slur#2zruf73

 

Says 67 percent of Native Americans find the Washington Redskins name racist.

Interesting that the study chose the label the word "racist" as opposed to "offensive," "derogative," or "a slur." Usually a person is a "racist." Policies or actions can be "racist." Maybe a clever bit of social engineering on the part of the group that organized the study.

 

I'm not defending the use of the word. Regardless of anyone's feeling about it, the term is tied up and is the public-facing brand identity of a very large organization that generates very large sums of money from it's use. No amount of studies or universities turning their noses up are going to motivate change. Dollars are. But that's unimportant to what we're talking about.

 

What's important is that these kinds of discussions pop-up around this issue. And U of M has dragged the Minnesota Vikings into the fracas. Like I sad, it was a blunder.

CharacterGroove
Aug 15 2014 11:53 AM

Is this actually the case? I've yet to see definitive proof that there's any sort of segment of the NFL fandom at large that is even interested in this issue, let alone "calling for a change." People squawking on Twitter does not a public movement make.

I respect that the University is making a statement, but it's really a poor decision. They're bringing the Vikings and the Wilfs into a discussion that to this point, no NFL owner has wanted to participate in. There is a time and place for activism, and there is a time and place for business. Confusing the two, and forcing the Vikings into this discussion, is a blunder. Zygi Wilf isn't going to openly call for a name change, and making any kind of statement, on either side of the issue, is only going to drum up controversy that the Vikings (for a change) had no hand in making.

This isn't the way you treat an organization that is making substantial investments that will improve your university's infrastructure for the long-term. Sure, U of M is providing a service for 20 days over a two year period, but they're gaining a little more than they're giving. Forcing the Wilfs into an awkward situation, where any statement they make is potentially the wrong one, isn't being a good partner.

Now give me my pizza.


Be sure not to confuse "the public" with "NFL fandom."
    • mike wants wins likes this

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