Native American leader challenges D.C. NFL team: ‘Time for Little Red Sambo to go’
American Indian Movement co-founder Clyde Bellecourt renewed Native Americans’ call for a name change for Washington D.C’s professional football team on Friday, telling Democracy Now anchors Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez that if owner Dan Snyder knew the history behind the term “Redskins,” he would do just that.
“Let’s not forget, there’s over 2,000 high schools, colleges and universities throughout America have changed,” Bellecourt said in a panel discussion alongside sportswriter and activist Dave Zirin. “They said they would never change, never change their name, just like Dan Snyder, but they have changed. Every single one of them have changed. And [that] will happen to this Washington team.”
Both Goodman and Bellecourt pointed to a Thursday night protest at the team’s game in Minneapolis, Minnesota as evidence of the increasing public demand for Snyder to change his team’s name. Members of the Minneapolis City Council also publicly slammed the team name at a press conference the same day.
Bellecourt told the panel the protest drew thousands of participants, “some of them in their full regalia to show the beauty of our culture, went along with us, marched on the stadium, carrying banners that said, ‘The ‘R’ word is no different than the ‘N’ word. The ‘R’ word is no different than the ‘N’ word.’ Little Red Sambo has to go. Little Black Sambo is gone, and now it’s time for Little Red Sambo to go.”
For his part, Zirin, who has repeatedly advocated for a name change while writing for The Nation, also credited the Oneida Nation’s work to highlight the issues with the team’s moniker, as well as the Idle No More movement, to the point where major publications are not using it anymore.
However, he argued, Snyder’s insistence he will keep the name has just worked against him.
“Dan Snyder, every time he opens his mouth, it’s like King Midas in reverse,” Zirin said. “Everything he touches turns to whatever we would say on polite television is the opposite of gold.”
Watch the discussion, aired on Democracy Now on Friday, below.