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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Press Release - The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

National Civil and Human Rights Coalition Calls for Washington Football Team to Drop Offensive Name

For Immediate Release
Contact: Scott Simpson, 202.466.2061, simpson@civilrights.org
December 12, 2013

WASHINGTON – Today, the membership of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the nation’s premier civil and human rights coalition representing more than 200 diverse national organizations, voted unanimously for a resolution urging the owner of the Washington Redskins to change the team’s offensive name.

The resolution notes that using this slur as the team’s name “cannot in any reasonable way be viewed as honoring the culture or historical legacy of any particular Native American tribe or individual.” The coalition called upon the team to “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.”

The resolution also urged state, local, and federal governments 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.”

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.  Members of The Leadership Conference include 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, the AFL-CIO, and many others. 

Below are quotes from key voices from today’s vote and the full text of the resolution.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights:

“This is not someone else’s problem, this is everyone’s problem. Having an offensive slur for the Washington team name teaches young people to celebrate the denigration of people for being who they are. That has a damaging psychic impact on individuals, as well as on the entire nation. Changing the name is the right thing do, regardless of how comfortable fans have become with it. 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.”

Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and a vice-chair of The Leadership Conference:

“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. 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.”

Ray Halbritter, representative of the Oneida Indian Nation who addressed the meeting urging attendees 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. 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.”

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.

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