Vikings won't adhere to Gophers request to eliminate use of Redskins nickname
MINNEAPOLIS -- Following a letter from a Minnesota representative, the University of Minnesota wanted to work with the Minnesota Vikings to eliminate use of the Washington Redskins' nickname when the team plays the Vikings in the university's TCF Bank Stadium in November.
University President Erik Kaler sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., which stated Kaler is working with the Vikings to eliminate the Redskins' name from "promotional and game date materials" for the Nov. 2 game at TCF Bank Stadium.
In a statement released Thursday night, the Vikings expressed sympathy, but also said they won't adhere to any ban:
"As an organization, we are very sensitive to this issue. Not only do we have a significant Native American population in Minnesota, but the Vikings have strong relationships with several tribes in the state. We have had an ongoing, respectful dialogue with Native American leaders and other community leaders over the past few years, and those conversations will continue moving forward. At the same time, the Vikings are one of 32 NFL teams, and NFL policies obligate us to operate and market the game on November 2 as we would any other game against any other opponent."
The Vikings are playing the next two seasons in the stadium on the University of Minnesota campus while a new $975 million stadium is built on the site of the team's old home, the Metrodome.
McCollumn sent a letter to Vikings' owner Zygi Wilf, urging the team to condemn the Redskins' team name, according to the Washington Post. McCollum sent a copy of the letter to Kaler.
In his response, Kaler wrote, "I agree that the current name is offensive and should be replaced."
Washington and the Vikings have played the past four seasons, with one game in Minnesota. The two teams played last November in Minnesota in the Metrodome.
McCollum reached out with the game transferring to the university's stadium.
"The time for debate has ended -- the name of the Washington franchise is clearly an offensive racial slur," McCollum wrote to Wilf, according to the Washington Post. "I urge you, as an NFL team owner, to not remain silent on this matter any longer."
Kaler said the university doesn't have authority over "NFL team behaviors" as part of the facility use agreement, but reached out to the Vikings.
"We are working with the Vikings to make every effort to eliminate the use of Washington's team name in promotional and game date materials and public address announcements," Kaler wrote. "They are participating in ongoing discussions with the University and American Indian community to ensure a peaceful, positive and safe event for fans while also providing space for protest and expression."
The Washington Post spoke with Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie, who disagreed with the school's efforts and said, "We have met many Native Americans from Minnesota who agree with our position and feel we are using the term correctly and honorably."
The University of Minnesota issued a statement early Thursday evening, before the Vikings sent their statement:
"The University of Minnesota finds the name of the Washington football team -- and other sports team names that promote negative and harmful stereotypes -- offensive and inappropriate. The University recognizes the challenges associated with having Washington compete at its TCF Bank Stadium and is committed to establishing a campus environment free from discrimination and harassment. Immediately after the Vikings 2014 home schedule was solidified, the University began working with its long-standing partners in the American Indian community, as well as students, faculty and staff, to consider the impact of this game on the campus community and to develop positive educational events in advance of the game. The University has also asked the Vikings to refrain from using the Washington team name in promotional materials and announcements and from selling related memorabilia during the game. We appreciate the Vikings' participation in the discussions about the University's concerns, and it's our hope that they will honor these requests."
TCF Bank Stadium includes a Minnesota Tribal Nations Plaza at the main west entrance. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community contributed $10 million, the largest single private gift ever endowed to the university, to assist in the building of the plaza.
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