Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the Mall of America Field last night ahead of the "Redskins" Vikings NFL game.
“We call this a walk, not a march, and this is a walk to raise the consciousness of people with regard to racism in sports,” said Alan Yelsey, who identified himself as an organizer for the American Indian Movement. “We’re certainly trying to change the name of the Washington team. That’s the focus,” he told The Washington Post.
The protesters held signs like “racism honors no one” and “human beings are not mascots” and chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, little red Sambo has got to go” and demanded that the Washington NFL team change its name. The Star Tribune reported that 700 demonstrators were part of last night’s movement to change the racial slur which was led by American Indian Movement founder Clyde Bellecourt.
The crowd marched to the stadium to hear several speakers including, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), and the Former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura.
“This name is wrong. It’s just plain wrong,” Ventura said according to USA Today. Ventura also told the marchers that he tried to avoid saying “Redskins” when he covered the team as a sports broadcaster.
Holding a bullhorn as he marched, Bellecourt said that the R-Word was just like the N-word. “We want the R-word completely erased from the memory of the NFL,” Bellecourt said according to the Star Tribune.
Also present were: Billy Mills, who won the 10,000-meter gold medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; Joey Browner, a former Minnesota Viking and Pro Bowl player; Minneapolis folk singer Larry Long, who sang a new song he wrote, “Redskins! I don’t see no Native people on your team.”
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton was asked about the name Thursday morning during a press conference and he said, “I believe the name should be changed,” calling the team’s name “racist” and “offensive.”
Ryan Schneider, an Ojibwe from Shakopee who participated in the march, told the Star Tribune, “The name is indefensible. It makes Native American kids ashamed of who they are.”
Several Takoda Prep high schoolers in Minneapolis also spoke out about the R-word hours before the protests. You can watch the video here.