MINNEAPOLIS, JAN. 26 -- The director of the American Indian Movement today called Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue "racists" before a rally of more than 2,000 outside the Metrodome, site of Super Bowl XXVI.
"We say to Jack Kent Cooke," Vernon Bellecourt added, "this is 1992. The name of your football team has got to be changed." To other teams with Indian nicknames and to fans who support them, he warned: "No more chicken feathers. . . . No more paint on faces. The chop stops here."
The rally started about four hours before kickoff and included a parade and march around the stadium. There was no indication that either Cooke or Tagliabue was in contact with the protestors.
But after receiving the Super Bowl trophy, Cooke told WMAL Radio: "There is nothing in the world wrong with the name Redskins."
"We're circling the wagon," said Bea Swanson, 63, whose roots are in the Ojibway tribe and who was carrying a sign that read: "Native Grandmothers Against Racism."
Of the size of the protest, its enthusiasm and her part in it, Swanson said: "Such self strength. A sense of power. Even if I see no change in my lifetime, I'm adding to that vision that it will happen."
Joining AIM were representatives of such groups as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban Coalition and National Organization for Women. A man with a United Church of Christ banner marched near a woman carrying a sign that read: "Jack Kent Cook. In your next life, you'll be a Redskin."
The most pointed sign read: "Shook our hands/Took our lands. For the Games/Took our Names. What's Next?"
Mostly, the protestors and the fans whose painted faces and game-day costumes they consider offensive passed without confrontation.
Among the most spirited exchanges was a protestor, who identified himself as Thunder Before The Storm, chasing Redskins fan Mark Edwards about 30 yards and yelling at him through a bullhorn.
Edwards moved from the Washington area to Knoxville, Tenn., in 1970. He was wearing a Redskins jacket, a Redskins hat, a Hog towel, a Redskins shirt, assorted Redskins buttons and Redskins boxer shorts over Redskins sweatpants. He was carrying a boom box that blared "Hail to the Redskins."
When Thunder Before The Storm returned to the march, Edwards said: "We support the Indians. We love 'em. To think we're against them is crazy. We're gonna win the championship for 'em."
Bellecourt, brother of American Indian Movement leader Clyde Bellecourt, "welcomed" Bills fans and also fans of Washington's team who showed no disrespect for Indians. The largest banners read: "D.C. Racism Is Not Fun."
Among the protestors was Will Pipken of Louisville, whose high school teams were nicknamed Redskins. He had his high-school letter jacket pinned to a sign that read: "I apologize for wearing this. Racism is wrong."
Fans whose tickets required them to enter Gate F had to pass near the large sign held by Lisa Ranallo and Joe Horse Capture. It was about three feet long and read: "Washington Rednecks."