Native American Leader Calls on NFL Washington Players to Sit Out Over Racist Name

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Protesters denounce the racist name of the NFL’s Washington team.
Protesters denounce the racist name of the NFL’s Washington team.
Image: Getty Images

A prominent Native American leader is calling on players for Washington D.C.’s NFL franchise to “rise to the occasion and become heroes” by refusing to play for a team “branded by a racial slur against Native Americans.”

In a statement printed in full by the Washingtonian, Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, which represents 500 tribal nations, said she is often asked about the Washington franchise but has declined to comment, waiting for the right moment.

“That moment is now,” began the statement.

The racial slur can no longer be removed by the complicit, indifferent, tone-deaf ownership of the franchise, because the stain they have fixed onto their own name and enterprises is now permanent.

It is an insult that can no longer be retracted, a sin that can no longer be erased.

Since it’s too late to give the team name up, it’s time for it to be taken.

It’s time for the players to rip down that name like it was a statue of a Confederate general in their locker room.

I am calling for members of the NFL franchise in Washington, D.C., to rise to the occasion and become heroes. All I ask is that you state the unequivocal moral truth: just as you would never play for the Washington [insert any other racial slur], you will no longer play for any team branded with a racial slur against Native Americans.

As long as that team name stands, players of conscience should sit at home rather than wear the NFL equivalent of the Confederate flag.


Sharp compares the act of players taking a stand by sitting out games to Colin Kaepernick, whose peaceful protests in 2016 highlighted police brutality against Black people brought him scorn and ultimately, banishment from the NFL. Earlier this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league was wrong for not listening to its players.

Sharp said those who refused to play would empower activists while denying the “plutocrats who have ignored decades of Native Americans’ pleas the chance to engage in an intelligence-insulting, carefully choreographed dance of belated wokeness at a time of their choosing.”


Washington has come under fire for use of the slur, with many media outlets, including Deadspin, refusing to use it. On June 2, Congresswoman. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) quote-retweeted Washington’s Twitter account, which posted a black square during BlackOut Tuesday by saying, “Change your name.”


Team owner Dan Snyder has emphatically claimed that he will “NEVER” change the name, even as the organization has distanced itself from notorious segregationist and former owner George Marshall by removing his name from a seating level at FedEx Field.

Not only has Snyder made a fortune off the racist branding, he was named the worst owner in the NFL by USA Today after a New York Times report surfaced that the team required cheerleaders go on a calendar shoot in Costa Rica where they posed topless as team sponsors — all men — watched.