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Statement by Congresswoman Betty McCollum During “Change the Mascot” Conference

October 7, 2013


[Remarks as prepared]

Good morning. It is my honor to be here today to support the “Change the Mascot” campaign.  Let me thank Ray Halbritter of the Oneida Indian Nation for his leadership and the tremendous effort put forth by his community. 

The Change the Mascot campaign is advancing a national dialogue which is important for Native Americans and all Americans to have. There are more than 5 million Native Americans in the U.S. They are our neighbors and friends-- children, elders, moms and dads, men and women who care about their culture, their communities, and their country. Native Americans are not mascots or caricatures to be exploited for profit –not by the NFL or any professional sports team owner. They should never be stereotyped in a dehumanizing, degrading, or demeaning manner.

In the year 2013 for the NFL and a team owner to be so driven by profit that this clearly racist mascot continues to be promoted and defended is truly outrageous. But it has not gone unnoticed. That is why we are here today as part of the Change the Mascot campaign. And change is coming. 

Let me quote from the September 13, 2013 editorial by the Washington Post: “We hope, too, that Mr. Snyder finally understands that the team’s name … is a racial slur of Native Americans so offensive that it should no longer be tolerated.”  They go on to say: “Mr. Snyder should be prepared for the controversy never to end.”

There is no dignity or respect in the exploitation perpetrated for profit by the NFL and Dan Snyder’s football business. They are promoting a racist slur that must change. And, this campaign is going to keep advancing until that name is changed.

It is my honor to represent Native American families in my congressional district and throughout Minnesota. In Minnesota, we have eleven Sioux and Ojibwe nations that have a long and very proud history of contributing to the strength, diversity, and success of our state.

In one month, on November 7th, my team, the Minnesota Vikings will host Washington’s football team.  That night I am sure the Change the Mascot campaign will have a big presence in the Twin Cities. I look forward to welcoming you, Ray!

I want to recognize one colleague who is not here today but has been the leading voice in Congress on this issue – Delegate Eni Faleomavaega who represents American Samoa. Eni is the author of legislation that would end federal trademark protection for the term “Redskin”. I am proud to be a co-sponsor, along with Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who I’m honored to be with here today.

This issue isn’t going away. The hired PR folks who are now defending Mr. Snyder’s football team cite outdated polls of Native Americans and talk about history and tradition. It’s all rubbish and corporate spin to keep the profits flowing.

Mr. Snyder, change the mascot.

End this ugly history and tradition of your team’s racist slur and pick a new mascot that offends no one – hurts no one –dehumanizes no one.

It’s time to put dignity and respect for Native people ahead your profits.