Thursday night's game between two middling teams, the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings, might not offer sports fans much in the way of exciting athleticism. But it has given opponents of the Redskins' name an opening for their fight.
Back in Washington, the D.C. Council passed a resolution this week calling on owner Dan Snyder to change the name of the football team, calling it offensive and racist. Mayor Vincent Gray also came out in favor of a name change. Snyder has long said that the Redskins name is not offensive and that the team's history should be honored.
But now, politicians outside of the District are getting involved in the debate. The Redskins are in Minnesota on Thursday, a state that is home to many Native Americans. And what makes this game different is that it is being played in a public facility.
A protest, organized by members of the American Indian Movement Interpretive Center in Minneapolis, is challenging the panel that manages the stadium not to display or announce the name "Redskins." Officials at the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority earlier denied a request to limit the use of the Redskins' logo. But that's not stopping the protest or the outcry from lawmakers.
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., wrote a letter to the authority members Wednesday urging them to reconsider their decision to display the logo, saying, "The use of this term is inconsistent with our state's values and history." The Oneida Nation, a group that has been at the forefront of opposition to the "R-word," ran radio ads in Minneapolis this week.
Even six members of the Minneapolis City Council and the outgoing mayor, Democrat R.T. Rybak, have urged the Washington football team to change its name. He said in part:
It has never been right to disrespect the indigenous people of our country, and it is especially wrong to do it in 2013 with the name of a team that represents our nation's capital.
I stand with elected officials across the country, including members of the Minneapolis City Council, and many, many others who believe it is long past time to change the name of Washington's NFL team. It is deeply disappointing that calls for respect have not been heard, and I will join others in looking for ways to bring change, including urging those who agree to boycott merchandise of the Washington Football Franchise.
Protesters are scheduled to gather at the center Thursday afternoon and march to the Metrodome to protest before the game.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., who has been a leading national voice on this issue, will also be marching with the protesters. The cochair of the Congressional Native American Caucus was one of 10 members of Congress who sent a letter to Snyder in May to change the name.
It's unclear whether the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority will heed the calls of these officials, but it might make the game between these two teams a little more fun to watch.