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Protesters march against NFL team at the U of M

November 18, 2014

Clyde+Bellecourt%2C+a+leader+of+the+American+Indian+Movement+and+member+of+the+Ojibwe%2C+led+the+protests+at+the+University+of+Minnesota.
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Protesters march against NFL team at the U of M

Clyde Bellecourt, a leader of the American Indian Movement and member of the Ojibwe, led the protests at the University of Minnesota.

Clyde Bellecourt, a leader of the American Indian Movement and member of the Ojibwe, led the protests at the University of Minnesota.

Breandan Gibbons

Clyde Bellecourt, a leader of the American Indian Movement and member of the Ojibwe, led the protests at the University of Minnesota.

Breandan Gibbons

Breandan Gibbons

Clyde Bellecourt, a leader of the American Indian Movement and member of the Ojibwe, led the protests at the University of Minnesota.

At 8 a.m., in 39-degree temperatures, on Nov. 2, 4,500 people gathered in front of TCF Back Stadium for the largest protest to date of the Washington football team’s name. The protest and preceding march were lead by government officials and First Nations leaders as well as other public figures.

The first speaker and emcee Susan Allen (DFL), a representative from Minneapolis, started the protest and series of speeches by saying, “This [team name] does matter,” which was a common theme throughout the day.

It was repeated by Laurie Watson, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Vice Chairman. “It matters because it is using a racial slur, which is damaging to our youth’s self esteem,” Watson said.

This was another statement that was repeated throughout the protest and the march. There was a sign displayed during the march stating, “We honor our women and children, our leaders of tomorrow — No honor in racist names or imagery!”

Many other speeches addressed Dan Snyder (the Washington team owner). U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL representative from Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, stirred up the crowd, yelling, “Dan Snyder, change the name!”

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges (DFL) said, “Dan Snyder, get into the 21st century!” She moved on to say, “You are not insulting just one race, you are insulting all the people. In fact you are not just insulting; it is more than an insult — it is hate speech”

Ellison reiterated this statement: “The black, brown, white — we are with you, if you are offended, we are offended! If you put down an entire people, that is a denial of human rights!”

Linda Koss, an attendee of the protest, described the team name as “absolutely terrible.” She went on to say that, “It is how their youth choose to identify, it upsets them.” She closed the interview by asking, “What do you find offensive? And how would you feel if it was a team name?”

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum speaks to the crowd advocating to change the name of the NFL team from Washington, D.C.

Breandan Gibbons
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum speaks to the crowd advocating to change the name of the NFL team from Washington, D.C.

In an interview with a women introduced as the “shining champion of Native Americans in the U.S. House,” U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, DFL representative from Minnesota’s 4th District said, “Hate speech is never free speech,” and that there is “no honor in a racial slur.” She closed her speech, and the interview, saying, “We will change the mascot!”

The message of the day was pretty clear: the Native American community does not feel honored by this name, and just because there are a few others who don’t think that way, the majority of the community does. Further, the people of Minnesota do not find the name acceptable, and it must change.

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