The owner of the Washington Redskins said he wants “to do more” to make a lasting impact on Native American communities, amid controversy over his team’s logo.
Owner Dan Snyder said in a letter published Monday that he traveled with his staff during the past four months to 26 different tribes across the country to learn first-hand about the views, experiences, and challenges of Native Americans. Consequently, he secretly established the Original Americans Foundation to provide resources and opportunities for the people, and to preserve the heritage of the Redskins team. He made the organization public this week.
“In speaking face-to-face with Native American leaders and community members, it’s plain to see they need action, not words,” Snyder wrote in a letter posted to the team’s website on Monday. “I want to do more. I believe the Washington Redskins community should commit to making a real, lasting, positive impact on Native American quality of life – one tribe and one person at a time.”
Snyder did not, however, acknowledge the concern expressed by many Americans throughout the year about the meaning of the term “redskin” containing negative racial connotations. Opponents of the current logo believe Snyder created the foundation to avoid change and alter the public’s perception of him.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused to register the team’s trademark before the turn of the century, and has since determined the word is a “derogatory slang” term. The National Football League continues to debate the issue.
“Too many Native American communities face much harsher, much more alarming realities. They have genuine issues they truly are worried about, and our team’s name is not one of them,” Snyder wrote. He listed such factors as poverty, diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, and suicide.
A group of nine Democratic House lawmakers and one Republican sent a letter last May to Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. They urged the two leaders to change what they called a “derogatory, demeaning, and offensive” team name.
Goodell then crafted a response letter
to Congress explaining his stance that the name was never meant to offend Native Americans. The commissioner more recently defended the term as an “honor” to Native Americans, earlier this year during his pre-Super Bowl press conference.
More recently, two lawmakers last month sent a letter to Goodell in support of changing the name of the Washington Redskins, calling the reference an “insult” to Native Americans.
RELATED: Lawmakers: ‘Redskins’ is ‘insulting’
The Washington team plays at FedExField, located in Maryland not far from the country’s capital. Gary Edwards, a Cherokee and retired deputy assistant director of the United States Secret Service, currently leads the foundation, Snyder said.
“Our team name captures the best of who we are and who we can be,” Snyder wrote online this week, “by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents.”