DENVER — A group of people estimated at more than 100 protested the Washington Redskins’ name Sunday outside Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Glenn Morris, a member of the leadership council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado, estimated the group at “a few hundred” and said he thought the protest served to further raise awareness of the objections that some Native American people have to the name.
“What we did today was part of a larger national movement of Native people to put pressure, continue to put pressure, escalating pressure on the Washington football organization, and to emphasize that this kind of racism against Native people is not going to stand,” Morris said. “This particular issue with this team has bubbled to the surface. But it’s a much broader issue. This is just emblematic of the larger question of racism against Native people in professional sports, college sports but also in the broader society. So we believe that we accomplished our goal of drawing attention to the Washington organization.”
The protesters encountered the Redskins’ team buses before Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, according to Morris.
“We caused those players on the buses to have to stop. … Those players had to stop and take notice that there are Native people in Denver, Colorado, who are opposed to what they’re doing,” Morris said. “And we were saying to them as predominantly African American players, you should understand the history of this team. And you should understand your own personal role in continuing racism through this team. And we hope that we piqued their conscience and got them to think a little bit about that, and their own personal role in this national debate.”
The players and coaches on the buses did not respond to the protesters, Morris said.
“They didn’t open the windows and they were surrounded by police cars with their lights and sirens,” he said. “And so they didn’t comment. But we could see them through the windows, that they had their faces pressed up against the windows, watching what was going on. We know that they took notice. And so that was our intention, was to get into the heads of the players and the coaching staff, to start to work from inside out to put some pressure on the ownership and the management team of the Washington football team to change this racist mascot.”
Redskins officials have said they don’t intend to offend anyone and they don’t plan to change the name.
One of the main organizers, Jolynne Locust-Woodcock, a member of Oglala Lakota Nation from Pine Ridge, S.D., and a Cherokee citizen, said her family has had Broncos season tickets since the team’s inception. But she has not attended a game inside the stadium in 10 years.
“That’s how strongly I feel about it,” Locust-Woodcock said. “It’s sad because I had a love for football, but I refuse to be a part of using American Indians as mascots.”
She said her adult son planned to hold up a “Change the Mascot” sign inside the stadium during the game.
Tessa McLean, another organizer from the Ojibwe Nation in Canada, said that she and many of the protesters were subject to verbal abuse by fans.
“A lot of the passers-by supportive of the Washington team name were swearing and cussing and booing at us,” she said. “We heard, ‘Get over it. Go home. We’re honoring you.’ When you hear that it feels hurtful, right where your heart is.
“If they wanted to honor us they could honor our treaties, they could honor the earth, they could honor our people. But not with mascots.”
Morris, also an associate professor of political science at the University of Colorado Denver, said he believes that pressure is “absolutely growing” on the team to make a change.
“Some of us have been involved in this issue for 30 years or so,” Morris said. “And it ebbs and flows. But this time it seems that the national momentum has really caught fire. And I think when you go to Minneapolis in two weeks [the Redskins play Nov. 7 at Minnesota], you’re going to see it’s a building national movement. This demonstration was larger than the one at Lambeau Field [when the Redskins played at Green Bay early in the season]. The one in Minneapolis will be larger than this one. And it will keep growing and the pressure will keep mounting both legally, socially, politically and economically. We’re calling for boycotts. We’re calling for other kinds of challenges under not only the trademark but to the tax status of the team and to the league. When they understand that it’s not economically feasible for them to continue this kind of racism, it’ll change. [Redskins owner Daniel] Snyder will change.”
Staff writer Mike Wise contributed to this report.
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