Dan Snyder: “Tomorrow I will announce the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation”

“March 24, 2014

To Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation:

Several months ago I wrote you about my personal reflections on our team name and on our shared Washington Redskins heritage. I wrote then – and believe even more firmly now – that our team 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.

In that letter, I committed myself to listening and learning from all voices with a perspective about our Washington Redskins name. I’ve been encouraged by the thousands of fans across the country who support keeping the Redskins tradition alive. Most – by overwhelming majorities – find our name to be rooted in pride for our shared heritage and values.

“There are Native Americans everywhere that 100% support the name,” Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians Chairwoman Mary L. Resvaloso told me when I came to visit her tribe. “I believe God has turned this around for something good.” She told me that it was far more important for us to focus on the challenges of education in Native American communities. I listened closely, and pledged to her that I would find ways to improve the daily lives of people in her tribe.

What would my resolve to honoring our legacy mean if I myself—as the owner of and a passionate believer in the Washington Redskins—didn’t stay true to my word? I wanted and needed to hear firsthand what Native Americans truly thought of our name, our logo, and whether we were, in fact, upholding the principle of respect in regard to the Native American community.

So over the past four months, my staff and I travelled to 26 Tribal reservations across twenty states to listen and learn first-hand about the views, attitudes, and experiences of the Tribes. We were invited into their homes, their Tribal Councils and their communities to learn more about the extraordinary daily challenges in their lives.

“I appreciated your sincerity to learn about our culture and the real-life issues we face on a daily basis,” Pueblo of Zuni Governor Arlen Quetawki told us after we toured his reservation. “I look forward to working together with you to improve the lives of Native Americans in any way possible.”

The more I heard, the more I’ve learned, and the more I saw, the more resolved I became about helping to address the challenges that plague the Native American community. In speaking face-to-face with Native American leaders and community members, it’s plain to see they need action, not words.

Yes, some tribes are doing well. And in our candid conversations, we learned that we share so much with Indian country. We find their appreciation of history, legacy, caring for their elders and providing a better future for their youth inspirational and admirable.

But the fact is, too many Native American communities face much harsher, much more alarming realities. They have genuine issues they truly are worried about, and our team’s name is not one of them. Here are just a few staggering, heartbreaking facts about the challenges facing Native Americans today:

— The official poverty rate on reservations is 29 percent, as determined by the U.S. Census.
36 percent of families with children are below the poverty line on reservations, compared with
9 percent of families nationally. Jobs are scarce, and so is genuine opportunity.

— Rampant diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, and heightened suicide rates afflict Native American youth, adults, and veterans. Life expectancies in high poverty Native American communities are the lowest anywhere in the Western Hemisphere—except for Haiti.

— Tribal reservations can lack even the most basic infrastructure that most Americans take for granted. For example, according to the independent, highly respected Millennium Project, 13 percent of Native American households have no access to safe water and/or wastewater disposal, compared with just 0.6 percent in non-native households. Similarly, 14 percent of homes on Native American reservations have no electricity, compared to just 1 percent among non-native households. It is hard to build for a better tomorrow without the basic needs of today.

These aren’t rare circumstances. These are the unfortunate facts found throughout Indian country today.

I’ve listened. I’ve learned. And frankly, its heart wrenching. It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.

I want to do more. I believe the Washington Redskins community should commit to making a real, lasting, positive impact on Native American quality of life—one tribe and one person at a time. I know we won’t be able to fix every problem. But we need to make an impact.

And so I will take action.

As loyal fans of the Washington Redskins, I want you to know that tomorrow I will announce the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.
The mission of the Original Americans Foundation is to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities. With open arms and determined minds, we will work as partners to begin to tackle the troubling realities facing so many tribes across our country. Our efforts will address the urgent challenges plaguing Indian country based on what Tribal leaders tell us they need most. We may have created this new organization, but the direction of the Foundation is truly theirs.

Our work is already underway, under the leadership of Gary Edwards, a Cherokee and retired Deputy Assistant Director of the United States Secret Service, as well as a founder and chief executive officer of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association.

Because I’m so serious about the importance of this cause, I began our efforts quietly and respectfully, away from the spotlight, to learn and take direction from the Tribal leaders themselves. In addition to travelling and meeting in-person with Tribal communities, we took a survey of tribes across 100 reservations so that we could have an accurate assessment of the most pressing needs in each community.

The stories I heard and the experiences I witnessed were of children without winter coats or athletic shoes; students in makeshift classrooms without adequate school supplies; text books more than decades old; rampant and unnecessary suffering from preventable diseases like diabetes; economic hardship almost everywhere; and in too many places too few of the tools and technology that we all take for granted every day—computers, internet access, even cellphone coverage.

In the heart of America’s Indian country, poverty is everywhere. That’s not acceptable. We have so much, yet too many Native Americans have so little.

Our work has already begun:

— As the bitter Arctic winds swept across the Plains this winter, we distributed over 3,000 cold-weather coats to several tribes, as well as shoes to players on boys and girls basketball teams.
“It’s been one of the coldest winters on record,” Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Vice Chairman Boyd Gourneau told me. “The entire Tribe is so appreciative of the coats we received for our youth and elders. It’s been such a great relationship, and we hope it grows.”

— We assisted in the purchase of a new backhoe for the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska. The Tribe will now be able to complete the burial process for their loved ones even in the coldest winter months, as well as assist in water pipe repairs which, without a functioning backhoe, has left the tribe without water — for days.

These projects were the first of many and we currently have over forty additional projects currently in process. We look forward to telling you more about these as our work proceeds.

For too long, the struggles of Native Americans have been ignored, unnoticed and unresolved. As a team, we have honored them through our words and on the field, but now we will honor them through our actions. We commit to the tribes that we stand together with you, to help you build a brighter future for your communities.

The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation will serve as a living, breathing legacy – and an ongoing reminder – of the heritage and tradition that is the Washington Redskins. I’m glad to be able to launch this vital initiative today.

With Respect and Appreciation,

Dan Snyder

P.S. Throughout this journey, there have been many incredible moments. One of my favorite fan moments took place in Gallup, NM – to the cheers of dozens of Washington Redskins fans. As Pueblo of Zuni Governor Arlen Quetawki noted, “We even had an unprompted welcoming party of Washington Redskins fans from Zuni and Navajo greet you when you departed from the airport!” The passion and support for the Burgundy and Gold throughout the country has been overwhelming.”

62 Comment

  • You notice how even the organization can’t call Native Americans “Redskins” BECAUSE IT’S A RACUAL SLUR!!

  • Smilla

    1400+ words aren’t going to hide how terrible the team’s name is.

    “honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents” So, his “values” are racism and and a pig-headed attachment to archaic terminology?

  • All that time, energy, and money into a bullshit PR move? Just change the name and be done with it.

  • wandafish

    “I’ve got Native American friends and they’re okay with the name, so … yeah.”

    Ugh, what a disgrace.

  • Nothing but despicable PR speak. It’s like trying to justify the Jewish holocaust or the KKK.

    • you lose people when you say something that uninformed.

      • are you saying there wasn’t a mass slaughter of the native americans, comparable to the holocaust?

      • No, I’ve lost you because of your difficulties with reading comprehension. There is nothing uninformed about that statement. Through all sorts of fake compassion—Snyder has shown over and over that he has no heart—he is attempting to justify their use of the Redskins name.

  • Typical response from the commenters so far. People are more concerned over a word then the actual plight of people who basically suffered genocide. Rather then applaud efforts to improve the lives of thousands of the neediest Americans , you all would rather the team just change their name and continue to ignore Native Americans. Absolutely sickening.

    • …uh, or they could do both. Change the name AND give tangible support to the communities the franchise has insulted and dishonored for decades.

      • You can absolutely do both, however, the above commenters were only concerned with the name change. This outreach to Native Americans is overdue for the team but it should be encouraged. The teams motives may be purely for PR but the results will be a lot more meaningful then changing a name.

        • Smilla

          Why should we praise this effort when it is clearly an attempt to whitewash (so to speak) his team’s stupid name? Snyder has owned the team since 1999. If he were truly concerned about the welfare of Native peoples, why did it take him 15 years to start this “foundation”? He’s doing it now only because the tide is truly turning against him.

          • Because he is not going to change the name. While the tide of self rituous media members have turned against the name, the vast majority of Americans are not against the name and more importantly to Snyder, the vast majority of Redskin fans are not against the name and continue to purchase merchandise and attend games. All the outraged Popville comments in the world won’t change that. At least out of this situation we can get some action to improve the lives of Native Americans.

          • Smilla

            @TakomaDC, by your logic, we should thank Snyder for his new “foundation” and shut up about the team name — which is exactly what Snyder wants to happen.

            Nope, not gonna play that game.

          • the “vast majority of americans” are not indigenous people.

      • Smilla

        THIS. Snyder should do both. It’s the least he can do to make up for defending the team name for so long.

    • Theyre solely doing it for PR reasons. It’s all for show…

      • i don’t understand your point. all of professional football is for show.
        its an entertainment business.

        • Anon’s point is that Snyder is not genuine in his actions. This letter implies that Snyder gives a flying fuck about the plight of the downtrodden, but we all know that’s not quite true. While it’s obvious to most readers here, this is actually not a bad PR move on his part. Will this do anything to shift the discourse counter to reality? I doubt it…

    • Sorry you’re sickened. Sorry that for some reason, you’re unable to get the possibility that one could actually be concerned about BOTH the derogatory name and the “actual plight of people who basically suffered genocide”. And I’m sorry that you apparently think that because someone is dribbling out “help” — along with good PR opportunities — that it means that it’s okay to use derogatory terms in the process. The ideal, of course, as has already been stated, is to change the name AND help the communities. Gosh, darn, ya think? I’d love to fling out a bitter and pithy joke about flinging doubloons to the Caucasoids — but I just can’t quite bring myself to do it. Yet.

      • I actually do state that you can do both and that they should do both. I also never said that the name should not be changed nor did I defend the name. However, don’t let any of that get in the way of your fun rant about doubloons and whatnot!

        • Sorry — really. You hadn’t stated that you could do BOTH in your initial post, and seemed to be ignoring the genuine concerns about the name. I wrote this before you posted the subsequent ones. Now that I’ve read through all of your posts, I wish that I could delete mine. I did enjoy the fun rant about flinging the doubloons though.

  • “Most [fans] by overwhelming majority, find our name to be rooted in pride”

    Uhhh it’s not about the majority who feel nostalgic over a racist sports team name…it’s about the marginalized minority. If you’re putting it down to #s they’re always going to loss

    • What exactly is racist about the name? Be specific.

      • “Redskin” : Native Americas :: “Darkie” : African Americans

      • It treats native americans in a single narrative. you can dress up in a character of a single image of a group that isn’t yours to root for your team, then go home. it flattens the meaning of a race and ethnicity and all those that were a part of it for centuries into a single commodity and meaning. all for the benefit and entertainment of another group in which the characterized group has virtually no power.

        • +1000. But I might say millennia instead of centuries. Like Anonymous @ 12:59 put it, the “Washington D*****s African Americans Foundation” would not have a strong appeal, even if the cause made some meaningful progress. Just the fact that the release doesn’t use the R-word except for when referring to the team name indicates the offensiveness of the term, despite quotes like “There are Native Americans everywhere that 100% support the name,” and “They have genuine issues they truly are worried about, and our team’s name is not one of them.”

          No dollar figures in the press release. Hmm. Who bought the coats distributed by the foundation? How much did they contribute to the backhoe purchase? Danny “began our efforts quietly and respectfully, away from the spotlight” but eventually decided to publicly pat himself on the back.

  • “Because I’m so serious about the importance of this cause, I began our efforts quietly and respectfully, away from the spotlight…” and because I’m so serious about the strength of this PR move, I’m transitioning to the next phase where I will refer anyone who questions the name to these tax-deductible pay offs, er, charitable givings.

  • jim_ed

    Hoo boy, the internet is going to be awash in the righteous fury of echo chamber circle jerking for the next 72 hours at minimum.

    I wait with bated breath to see who can top Dave Zirin in the outrage arms race. In the mean time, Mike Madden over at the WCP has a fairly nuanced take on it.

    • Well, you surely contributed something to the conversation eh?

    • gotryit

      Dear Mr. Ed,

      The term “echo chamber circle jerking” has been trademarked for our routine “new” coverage. Please refrain from using it without our permission.

      The National Organization of News Enterprises

  • They’re still the Deadskins.

  • Oh yea? Go fuck yourself Snyder. You can’t buy this shit off. — Signed, lifelong Washington football team fan.

  • The grand dragon of the KKK announced his organization is making a donation to the United Negro College Fund, so now people should stop saying the KKK is racist.

  • OAF??? Derp.

  • Burgundy lipstick on a pig. “Redskins” isn’t offensive, but I’ll use “Original Americans” in the name. Seriously? Even someone as dense as Snyder must see how ridiculous that is.

  • I never really understood his stubbornness in not changing the name…couldn’t he make millions and millions of dollars more by changing the name and selling new merchandise to the millions of fans the team has? In the end, isn’t he a businessman? The fans are still going to root for the team, no matter the name (or how bad they are). I understand there’s an aspect of tradition here, but there’s precedent of other teams changing their names, and those teams continue to honor that tradition and history while no longer offending people.

    • I’ve wondered this myself. Plus, “The Washington Hogs” still keeps the aspect of tradition. You could have a serious maskot – the fierce warthog, and/or the funny maskot – the pig in a suit to make fun of politicians. Plus, Hoggettes next gen.

  • This man needs to pull his head out of the sand and go volunteer at a reservation for a few months. No media, no computer, cell phone etc. allowed. Let him actually live and listen to the people.

    • But can he still drive his Bentley to the plantation? And while volunteering, is he going to clear cut a bunch of protected forest just to get a better view of the water?

  • why white man mad -tonto

  • Clearly the Oneida Indians are on board with Snyder: Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter issued the following statement Tuesday morning:

    “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.”

    “We are also hopeful that in his new initiative to honor Native Americans’ struggle, Mr. Snyder makes sure people do not forget that he and his predecessor George Preston Marshall, a famous segregationist, have made our people’s lives so much more difficult by using a racial slur as the Washington team’s name.”

  • What does Snyder mean when he says he talked to thousands of fan who “find our name to be rooted in pride for our shared heritage and values”? How many of those fans were Native Americans? Snyder isn’t a Native American, so even if he found five fans who were, it still does mean much in terms of “shared heritage”. What kind of drugs is he on? Unless he wants to give 100 original nations 1% ownership each in the Redskins, there’s no shared heritage in a team that shares a name with a racial slur. This is a pathetic attempt to buy a few voices of support with some token donations to a handful of nations. Snyder should be ashamed.

  • This is an interesting letter. I don’t buy the idea that the Redskins team has “honored” Native Americans through its actions on the field any more than the NY Knicks have “honored” Knickerbockers or the Boston Celtics have “honored” the Irish. But it does sound like he is committed to effecting some real change in Native American communities that need it. He also suggests that most Native Americans are less sour on the name than the activists are. Query whether that is true. I know that the Commissioner of the NFL cited a poll which claimed that 90% of Native Americans asked did not find the name offensive. But there have been lots of criticisms about the accuracy of that poll.

  • I do not believe in changing the name… but Dan Snyder seems to have a knack for digging the hole deeper and making it very hard to be sympathetic to his position. How did someone like him get to be so successful and wealthy!?

  • My neighbor is 100% convinced that there’s a Native American curse on the team because of the name. I don’t see anyone dealing with that issue…

  • “As the bitter Arctic winds swept across the Plains this winter, we distributed over 3,000 cold-weather coats to several tribes.”
    You think they were team coats, with “REDSKINS” across the back and a big team logo on the chest? Because that would be exactly what I’d expect from Snyder. And not new coats, but surplus coats from the previous season that say “Super Bowl Champions,” that were ordered, but never shipped to stores because, well you know. Kind of like the poor kid in Africa wearing his 2009 Phillies World Series Champs t-shirt.

  • As the late Dave Brockie said, keep the name the same, and change the mascot to a potato

  • I just hope the coats were disease free….

  • Douche Snyder.

    Does the N-word honor European Americans shared tradition with African Americans? I think we can all agree.. pretty much naw.

    Silly hypothetical: China takes over our country eradicates most of us establishes a new capital, has a sports team, calls it the whiteskins (or white devils).. It’s cool right?

    I don’t normally push such idealistic views, but this seems pretty plain to me.

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