Redskins Owner Says He Won’t Change Team Name

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Carolyn Kaster/ AP

Washington Redskins football team owner Daniel Snyder arrives for the NFL fall meeting in Washington on Tuesday.

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder reiterated Wednesday his long-held insistence that he won’t change the team’s name, in the face of new criticism from American Indians who find it offensive.

“I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn,” Synder wrote in a letter to season ticket holders. “But we cannot ignore our 81 year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years, the team name ‘Redskins’ continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.”

On Monday, the Oneida Indian Nation held a news conference in Washington, calling out both Synder and the National Football League for their acceptance of what they call a racial slur being used as the team moniker. President Barack Obama chimed in last weekend, telling the Associated Press that if he was the team’s owner, he would consider changing the name.

While NFL officials have said they’re willing to meet with Oneida Indian Nation leaders next month, Snyder remains unbowed.

“Washington Redskins is more than a name we have called our football team for over eight decades,” Synder wrote. “It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect — the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.”

The team’s history dates to Boston in 1932, when it was known as the “Boston Braves.” By 1937, the team had moved to Washington with a new name, the Redskins. In his letter, Synder reflected not only on his experiences watching the team as a child, but the relationship the team has had with Native Americans over the years. In 1971, former coach George Allen received an honor from the Red Cloud Athletic Fund, located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, he says.

“When I consider the Washington Redskins name, I think of what it stands for,” Synder said. “I think of the Washington Redskins traditions and pride I want to share with my three children, just as my father shared with me – and just as you have shared with your family and friends.”

Ray Halbritter, a representative for the Oneida Nation who hosted Monday’s event, responded to Snyder’s latest comments by saying the owner still doesn’t get it.

“The marketing of this racial slur has had – and continues to have – very serious cultural, political, and public health consequences for my people and Native Americans everywhere,” Halbritter said in the statement. “It is clear from Mr. Snyder’s letter that he does not understand those consequences.”