Redskins owner Dan Snyder creates Original Americans Foundation
WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder says it's time to put some money behind his claim that his team's nickname honors Native Americans.
Snyder said Monday he's creating a foundation to assist American Indian tribes, even as some in that community continue to assert that the name "Redskins" is offensive.
"It's not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans," Snyder said in a letter to the team's fans. "We must do more."
The letter states the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation will "provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities" for Native Americans. The announcement did not state whether Snyder will personally donate any money to the foundation and gave no other financial details.
Some fans think it's a good move:
"It seems like he's admitting there is something wrong, but on the other hand, I think he's just trying to do the right thing and help people out -- I don't think it's a bad thing," said Paul Parker.
Snyder says the Foundation’s work has already begun, distributing more than 3,000 coats to several tribes this harsh winter. Shoes were also reportedly given out to players on both boys and girls basketball teams.
"Danny Snyder means wells, but he's always trying too hard," said James Yap, who thinks the whole thing sounds too much like a PR stunt.
Yap believes that Snyder will just have to change the name sooner or later:
"Even if one-percent thinks it's a slur, it's still a slur. I don't care what you think."
A major opponent of the nickname also said Snyder's move was "somewhere between a PR assault and bribery." Suzan Shown Harjo, a lead figure in a long-running case that seeks to strip the Redskins of their federal trademark protection, told The Associated Press that Snyder is showing the "same arrogance" that he's shown previously when defending the nickname.
"I'm glad that he's had a realization that Native Americans have it tough in the United States," Harjo said. "All sorts of people could have told him that, and have been trying to tell him that for a long time."
Snyder again gave no indication he plans to change the team's name. He said he believes "even more firmly" the name "captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents."
Snyder has come under unprecedented pressure to change the name over the last year. President Barack Obama told the AP in October he would consider changing the name if he owned the team.
Harjo said the refusal to budge on the name will offset, at least in part, the good that is done with the foundation's money.
"Will (the foundation) do much of anything? No. But it probably won't hurt," Harjo said, "except that it will continue the cycle of negative imaging of Native American people in the public arena."
In the letter, Snyder said he and his staff visited 26 reservations over the last four months. He listed poverty, illness, drug abuse, violence and lack of basic infrastructure as among the problems faced by Native Americans.
"I've listened. I've learned. And frankly, its heart wrenching," the letter said.
Harjo wondered why Snyder, who has owned the team since 1999, is only just now reaching out to Native Americans.
"It's sort of an admission that he was losing the PR battle," she said. "So now he's gone out to find the real story - as if someone was hiding the real story about pressing needs in Indian country."
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Oneida Indian Nation said, "We're glad that after a decade of owning the Washington team, Mr. Snyder is finally interested in Native American heritage, and we are hopeful that when his team finally stands on the right side of history and changes its name, he will honor the commitments to Native Americans that he is making."