Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday calling on the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to follow the NBA’s example and take aggressive action against racism in the NFL.
Reid applauded NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for acting quickly in punishing Clippers owner Donald Sterling for “his hateful, racist behavior” and the NBA’s work in swiftly moving to stamp out bigotry from its ranks.
“I wonder has the leadership of the National Football League taken notice of the NBA’s decisive action?” Reid questioned. “How long will the NFL continue to do nothing as one of its teams bears a name that inflicts so much pain on Native Americans. It is untoward of Daniel Snyder to try and hide behind ‘tradition’ in refusing to change the name of the team. Tradition? What tradition? A tradition of racism is all that name leaves in its wake.”
“I urge Daniel Snyder to do what is morally right and remove this degrading term from the league by changing his team’s name,” Reid said.
Running Strong for American Indian Youth® National Spokesman Billy Mills has long expressed his outrage over the racist and derogatory mascot of the Washington football team.
“The term Redskin goes back to colonial times when government officials rewarded bounty hunters for turning in actual blood drenched Indian skins,” Mills wrote in a 1999 letter to the editor in The Washington Business Journal. “Is it any wonder then, that we Native Americans find these mascots to be not only downright insulting but also excruciatingly painful!”
“Names and symbols do affect people’s attitudes and cause harmful reactions,” Mills wrote. “Regardless of original intent, relative attractiveness or degree of cherished attachment, the use of ‘Indians’ as sports mascots present demeaning and harmful stereotypes of a living people and their culture. They violate us as a people. When we are violated, it affects our self-esteem and makes us feel ashamed. This destruction of self-worth manifests itself in our youth in worse symptoms like suicide, school dropouts, and alcohol and drug abuse.”
”As a Lakota man, I feel violated by these mascots portraying Native Americans,” Mills wrote.
Reid noted that professional sports teams names have been changed before noting that 17 years ago the late Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Bullets basketball team saw all the gun violence and murders taking place in the DC area and changed the name to the Wizards
“Choosing a new name will be easy,” Reid said. “But since Dan Snyder fails to show any leadership, the NFL should take an assist from the NBA and pick up the slack. It would be a slam dunk.”
Reid criticized the NFL for “sitting on its hands, doing nothing while an entire population of Americans has been denigrated. I say to Commissioner Roger Goodell, it’s time to act. Remove this hateful term from your league’s vocabulary. Follow the NBA’s example and rid the league of bigotry and racism. Your fans will support it.”
March 14, 2013, the Running Strong Board of Directors passed a resolution which categorically rejects and calls for an end to the use of American Indian images and team names. A core component of our mission consists of creating opportunities, hope and self esteem among American Indian youth. We feel such names and mascots run counter to this essential element of our work.
You can read the full Running Strong organizational statement on the team name issue in this Facebook post from November 2013.