When the Minnesota Vikings take the field November 2, they could be facing a nameless team.
The University of Minnesota, whose TCF Bank Stadium will house the Vikings for the next two years during construction of the NFL team’s new stadium, is looking to “make every effort to eliminate” the use of the Washington Redskins name on game-related material and on game day when the two teams square off in the fall, according to the Washington Post.
The effort come after Democratic representative Betty McCollum sent a letter to Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and university president Eric Kaler last month claiming the “Redskins” name violates the school’s anti-discrimination policy. Citing the Board of Regents’ Equity, Diversity, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action Policy, McCollum said the team’s “hateful slur” of a name fails to create an environment “free from racism . . . and other forms of prejudice, intolerance or harassment.”
McCollum’s district does not include TCF Bank Stadium, which is in Minneapolis – she represents the neighboring Saint Paul area – although she does represent part of the university’s campus.
In its initial response, the university acknowledged the “very sensitive” situation surrounding the name but offered no alternative. Kaler, the university president, subsequently since sent a letter to McCollum agreeing that the name is “offensive and should be replaced,” and promising that the university would work to remove the word “Redskins” from “promotional and game date materials and public address announcements.”
The Post reports that it is not known how much if any cooperation the Vikings are providing to remove the name. An executive said the team is still weighing how to handle the situation after an initial meeting in July.
“We take the issue very seriously, but we’re just getting ready for our season and we’ve been very focused on training camp and the preseason, and to be honest, we don’t have a game plan for our Nov. 2 game versus Washington,” executive vice president of public affairs Lester Bagley told the paper.
KMSP-TV reports that the facility-use agreement between the university and the NFL does not give the university jurisdiction over the stadium.
A Washington spokesman said the team objected to the university’s efforts and pointed to support for the name among American Indians in the state.
A major endorsement or indictment of the name may come if the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which donated $10 million during TCF Bank Stadium’s construction, takes a public stance on the issue.
In his letter, Kaler also indicated that the university, the Vikings, and American Indian leaders are working on other matters related to the game, including “providing a space for protests and expression.”
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.