Members of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights voted unanimously for a resolution urging the owner of the Washington Redskins to change the team’s offensive name.
Earlier today, the coalition approved a resolution that, in part, calls on the team to “refrain from the use of any other images, mascots, or behaviors that are or could be deemed harmful or demeaning to Native American cultures or peoples.”
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the coalition, and several other leaders, including Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians and Ray Halbritter, CEO and representative of Oneida Indian Nation, spoke out during the vote.
"Changing the name is the right thing to do, regardless of how comfortable fans have become with it," said Henderson. "And when Mr. Snyder does decide to put the slur away, I think he'll discover a new market of consumers who recognize the dignity of all people and want to honor that with the sports teams they support."
In the resolution, the members urged state, local and federal governements to "disassociate themselves from the Washington Redskins franchise and to end any preferential tax, zoning or other policy treatment that could be viewed as supporting the franchise as long as it retains its current team name."
“By recognizing the ongoing disparagement of American Indian and Alaska Natives and asking the NFL to change the name of the D.C. franchise, the Leadership Conference reconfirms its commitment to fighting for equal rights for Native peoples,” said Pata. “Passing this resolution at their annual meeting further proves that The Leadership Conference is fully behind this work and NCAI is proud and happy to have them on our team.”
The Leadership Conference has played a key role in passing every major civil rights law since 1957. Approval of the resolution took place at The Leadership Conference’s annual meeting, where members of the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, American Association of People with Disabilities, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the ACLU, National Urban League, National Organization for Women, Human Rights Campaign, the Anti-Defamation League and the AFL-CIO were present.
Halbritter addressed meeting attendees and urged them to adopt the resolution.
“The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the organizations it represents understand that an attack on the civil rights of one set of people is an attack on the civil rights of all people,” said Halbritter. “The resolution that passed today makes clear that protecting civil rights means not just making sure everyone has an equal opportunity and an equal chance to make their voice heard – it also means making sure that everyone has a right to live free from being a target of racial slurs. The fight to change Washington's team name is a fight to finally say that in a 21st Century America, we must value mutual respect and civility over subjugation and hostility.”
The Leadership Conference has been behind every major civil rights law since 1957, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Fair Housing Act.
According to The Washington Post, of all 85 organizations at the gathering noone offered opposition to the resolution, which was approved by a round of applause.
A full text of the resolution is below.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Resolution on the Washington, D.C., Football Team Name
WHEREAS, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has, since its founding in 1950, stood for not only the eradication of legal and socioeconomic barriers to equality, but also for the promotion of tolerance and respect of all cultures and the affirmation of the dignity of all individuals; and
WHEREAS, Native American civil rights organizations and Native American people and their non-Native supporters have for decades called for the elimination of the use of so-called “Native” names, images, mascots, and behaviors that promote negative stereotypes and connotations or that trivialize Native American cultures, including those used by athletic teams and activities, and have succeeded in persuading the majority of educational athletic programs to abandon such practices as an affront to the dignity of Native American tribes and peoples; and
WHEREAS, a number of professional sports teams have either abandoned or limited their use of team names, images, mascots, and behaviors that have been viewed as offensive or demeaning to Native American cultures and peoples, without detrimentally affecting the athletic or commercial success of the teams; and
WHEREAS, similarly, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has instituted and enforced a policy that has penalized collegiate athletic programs that use pejorative or disparaging team names, images, mascots, and behaviors, a policy that has promoted respect for Native American tribes and peoples without detrimentally affecting the success of any athletic teams or programs that have changed their names or other forms of branding; and
WHEREAS, the term “redskin,” when used in reference to Native American cultures and people, has a history of use as a pejorative and insulting name; one that is and has been defined by numerous dictionaries as an offensive racial, ethnic slur; one that is widely considered to be just as offensive and demeaning as historically-used slurs that are no longer deemed acceptable when used in reference to groups and individuals in African-American, LGBT, physical or developmental disability, Jewish, Italian-American, or other communities; and one that cannot in any reasonable way be viewed as honoring the culture or historical legacy of any particular Native American tribe or individual;
WHEREAS, the fact that the private or commercial use of athletic team names, images, mascots, and behaviors is protected by the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and similar state and local protections of the right of free expression, does not make the use of offensive or demeaning names, images, mascots, and behaviors any less harmful and inappropriate, and does not require local, state, or federal government entities to be complicit in or supportive of their use;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights calls upon the National Football League’s Washington Redskins franchise to change its team name, and to refrain from the use of any other images, mascots, or behaviors that are or could be deemed harmful or demeaning to Native American cultures or peoples; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights calls upon the District of Columbia, the State of Maryland, and other local, state, and federal government entities to take any and all appropriate measures, while taking special care to avoid infringing any of the freedoms of speech or association guaranteed by the First Amendment and the U.S. Constitution and similar local and state protections, to disassociate themselves from the Washington Redskins franchise and to end any preferential tax, zoning, or other policy treatment that could be viewed as supporting the franchise as long as it retains its current team name; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights commends the current and former government officials, media outlets, and other entities that have encouraged the Washington Redskins franchise to change its team name or that have refused to be complicit in promoting the current team name; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights calls upon other sports teams to eradicate the use of team names, images, mascots, and behaviors that are or could be deemed harmful or demeaning to Native American cultures or peoples.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.