By Arturo R. García
Dan Snyder apparently attempted to sidestep the continuing criticism around his National Football League franchise on Monday, announcing the formation of an “Original Americans Foundation” in a four-page letter on his team’s website, the Washington Post reported.
“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,” Snyder’s statement read. “In speaking face-to-face with Native American leaders and community members, it’s plain to see they need action, not words.”
Specifically, Snyder reached out to 26 tribes over a four-month period before launching the foundation, which has already distributed more than 3,000 winter coats and basketball shoes to several tribes, as well as a new backhoe for the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska.
But, as Indian Country Today Media Network noted, there are more than 300 reservations in the U.S. , meaning Snyder is relying on approval from 8 percent of the country’s Native population. As Racialicious has previously reported, a study released last October by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) showed the team’s name was met with disapproval from 80 percent of Native communities.
The foundation was also criticized by Oneida Indian Nation spokesperson Ray Halbritter.
“If he really cared and really wanted to honor American Indians, he would stop using a racial epithet as the name,” Halbritter told MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell on Tuesday. “But of course, he’s probably profiting millions and millions of dollars in his team, and marketing this to America and the world.”
Halbritter also said it was unlikely that Snyder would have used the team’s name as a descriptor for any of the communities he visited while preparing the foundation for launch.
“I seriously doubt that Dan Snyder went on this trip, when he was traveling and said, ‘It’s so nice to see all you R-people, and what a bunch of nice R-kids you have,” Halbritter told O’Donnell. “Social science has made it clear that this is detrimental to the self-esteem and well-being of American Indian youth, and teen suicide rates are epidemic in Indian country.”
Meanwhile, the NCAI released a statement giving credit to Snyder for investing in Native communities, but calling it only a partial step forward:
This Foundation will only contribute to the problems in Indian Country if it does not also address the very real issue of how Native people are consistently stereotyped, caricaturized, and denigrated by mascot imagery and the use of the R-word slur. For Mr. Snyder and the Foundation to truly support and partner with Indian Country, they must first change the name of the DC team and prove that the creation of this organization isn’t just a publicity stunt.