In what appeared to be a clandestine move to garner support from Native American leaders, an intermediary for the Washington Redskins on Thursday contacted the leader of a small Nevada tribe and invited him to Washington, D.C., for a news media event with team owner Daniel Snyder.
According to USA TODAY Sports, Chairman Joseph Holley of the Battle Mountain Band of Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians declined the invite. The person who contacted Holley allegedly called on behalf of the team from a Corona, California-based company, representatives of the National Congress of Americans said. NCAI broke the news last week.
“Someone working for the team called me out of the blue to invite me to a meeting in D.C. with the team and its owners and wanted to know what I thought of the team name,” Holley said in a statement by the NCAI released to USA TODAY Sports. “They did not tell me what the meeting was about, what I would be doing or who else was invited and wanted my answer in just a few hours. My answer was no. I’ve got responsibilities to my community and members here at home and can’t be running off to D.C. at a moment’s notice to meet with a football team to do who knows what.”
Washington Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie told USA TODAY Sports that Snyder was out of the United States last week and next and there is a team media event Wednesday. Wyllie did not say if that event would include tribal leaders.
A statement released by the Oneida Indian Nation to Indian Country Today Media Network condemned the team’s curious cold-call campaign to Native American tribal leaders.
“Rather than openly engaging with leading Native American, civil rights and religious organizations who represent millions and are calling on the NFL to change the R-word mascot, the Washington NFL team is reportedly carrying out a secret campaign to enlist Native Americans willing to stand with them at an undisclosed press event,” the statement read.
Likewise, Jacqueline Pata, NCAI’s executive director, told USA TODAY she thought the Washington team treated American Indians as props.
“If the Washington team wants to talk to tribal leaders, they should do so openly and respectfully, not under cover,” Pata said in a statement. “Tribal leaders are busy running sovereign tribal governments. They have agencies, courts and programs to oversee, and they are under constant time pressure. It is yet another insult for the team to suggest that these leaders can simply drop everything to fly to Washington to defend the NFL’s use of a dictionary-defined racial slur that denigrates Native Americans.”
The Redskins’ invitation to Holley came the same day the team called on its fans and supporters to tweet to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid using the hashtag #RedskinsPride with expressions of their admiration for the team and its name.
The Twitter campaign backfired, and what the team had hope would’ve been a deluge of support for their side turned into a national demonstration of disapprobation.
Sen. Reid and 49 other senators sent letters to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week calling the team name a racial slur and encouraged him pressure Snyder to change it.
“What we saw in the immediate aftermath of the (team’s) tweet was a collective, overwhelming outpouring that was heavily critical of the Washington football team,” Reid’s digital director, Faiz Shakir, wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports. “It was an utter failure for them, and I hope it causes the organization to reflect on why that occurred.”