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By Dan Rudy 

Southeast tribes boycott FedEx over NFL mascot

 


Ahead of next month's start to the football season, Alaska's largest tribal group has made clear it will not be rooting for one of the National Football League's 32 franchises by boycotting its primary sponsor.

Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska gave notice last week to all tribal employees to discontinue use of FedEx services due to its sponsorship of the Washington Redskins.

The announcement follows the council’s adoption of a resolution formally opposing the NFL team's controversial name, urging FedEx to disassociate from a brand that it considers disparaging to Native Americans.

Several other tribes and tribal organizations have already taken similar action, including the Native American Rights Fund and National Congress of American Indians. Central Council points to findings from more than 100 professional organizations representing civil rights, education, and athletics that use of Native American names or symbols by sports teams promotes misunderstanding and perpetuates negative stereotypes.

Originally called the Boston Braves, the football team adopted the new name in 1933 to distinguish itself from other local sports clubs. It kept the name when it moved to Washington D.C. in 1937, and its present logo was designed in 1971.

When and how the term “redskin” originated are under debate among etymologists. The team and its supporters have argued it is a Native-originated term of solidarity dating to the 18th Century. Detractors have countered the term was derived later, linked to the 19th Century practice of removing skin or scalps for the purpose of collecting bounties.

Regardless of how it came about, in subsequent decades the term acquired a derisive character, and is today considered by the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries to be dated and offensive.

In its announcement, Central Council explained the purpose of the boycott is to encourage FedEx to reconsider its sponsorship of “an NFL team that remains obstinate and insensitive.”

Team president Bruce Allen in May 2014 defended the name in a letter after 50 U.S. Senators pressed the NFL to change it. In an interview the previous year, owner Daniel Snyder likewise told USA Today: “We will never change the name of the team.”

Finding no cooperation from the team's management, groups opposed to the monicker have turned focus onto FedEx as a key funding source of the Maryland-based team. The global courier service has held the naming rights to the Redskins' stadium since 1999, and FedEx founder Fred Smith is a co-owner of the team.

“The marketing partnership between FedEx and the NFL team continues to promote an offensive term used during a deplorable and inhumane period in our history suffered by the ancestors of our American Indian brothers and sisters,” said Central Council's president, Richard Peterson. “FedEx’s continued support of this team is disheartening and we encourage other tribes to rise up in solidarity to support this movement.”

Central Council is a sovereign entity representing nearly 30,000 Tlingit and Haida members worldwide.

 

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