Published On: Thu, Sep 10th, 2015
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Tribe ceases relationship with Washington NFL team






The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will no longer have any relationship with the Washington NFL team nor its Original Americans Foundation (OAF).  Tribal Council passed a resolution during its regular session on Thursday, Sept. 10 that states the Tribe will “cease all relationships” and “have supporting articles, photos and videos removed from the Washington NFL teams’ and Original American Foundation’s websites”.

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Kina Swayney, an EBCI tribal member, submitted the legislation.  After its passage, she commented, “I am very proud of our Tribal Council for giving me the opportunity and for listening and hearing the facts.  I also applaud them for their commitment to our youth and their commitment to our legacy for future generations.”

During the discussion on the legislation, Lt. Col. Swayney said that mascots featuring American Indian images directly affect Native youth.  “It lends to a feeling of hopelessness in Native youth.  It affects their self-image, how others see them and how they see themselves.”

In her legislation, she referenced the fact that USET passed legislation similar in scope to hers.  The resolution also states, “…the use of the term Redsk*n for the team mascot and nickname for the Washington National Football League (NFL) team is offensive and hurtful to the Native American population and causes direct harmful effects to the public health and well-being of the Native American population.”

Lt. Col. Swayney related that members of the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143 Color Guard presented the colors at the opening of a Washington game in November 2014.  She claims images and video of the veterans were used on the Washington team’s website in support of their nickname.  “They went there with honorable intentions.  What the Original American Foundation did was take their honorable service and twist it.”  She said it was never the Post’s intention to show support for the name.

Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy called the name “racist” and commented, “I do share her concern.”

She also spoke of a video featuring Principal Chief Michell Hicks entitled “Hail to the Redskins” that was made on the same visit as Post 143 and said members of her community “recoiled” when they saw it online.

Becky Walker, an EBCI tribal member from the Wolfetown Community, commented after the vote, “It was really disappointing to know that one of the leaders of our Tribe had gone and participated with the Redskins and actually did a promotional video in support of them, and basically, in the way that it appears, used our servicemen as a front and a guise to do that.  I am glad that this issue was addressed today, and I hope that we can really find out exactly what happened, what was exchanged and what our Tribe received in relation to Principal Chief Michell Hicks’ dealings with the Washington NFL team.”

Walker distributed copies to Tribal Council of a public records request she made to the EBCI Executive Office asking for information on what was received by the Tribe from the Washington team.  “We never even received a response.”

Yellowhill Rep. David Wolfe said that Tribal Council did support Post 143 going to Washington but added, “We were unaware of what it was going to be twisted into.”

This past week, the Indian National Finals Rodeo also cut ties with the Washington team.  In a letter sent to the organization, Bo Vocu, INFR vice president, wrote, “After much soul searching, we have decided that we cannot in good conscience accept resources from you on the terms you have offered, no matter how desperately we need it.  That is because, as you know, the resources you are offering are not truly philanthropic – they come with the expectation that we will support the racial slur that continues to promote your associated professional football team’s name.”

A federal judge ruled on July 8 that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cancel the Washington NFL football team’s “Redsk*ns” trademark.  U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said in his 70-page decision that the USPTO cancel the registration for six marks.  He wrote, …the marks consisted of matter that ‘may disparage’ a substantial composite of Native Americans…”