Thousands say “We’re not mascots” at Minneapolis protest

By Chris Getowicz

Republished from an article at

Minneapolis, Minn. — Over five thousand people joined eleven tribal nations in demanding Washington’s football franchise “change the name!” Gathering at Northrop Plaza at the University of Minnesota, over 3,000 people marched and converged on the stadium two hours before the game and were joined by 2,000 others who marched from the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis.

Protesters marched in front of the stadium and through the Tribal Nations Plaza. The plaza was built to honor the Minnesota tribes that helped pay for the stadium.

Speakers called Washington owner Dan Snyder’s defense of his team’s name, “hate speech for profit.” White Earth Band member and AIM co-founder Clyde Bellecourt told the rally, “There have been millions of people erased from the face of the earth.” Bellecourt explained the origin of the team name as being, “when blood ran down those children’s faces, those grandmas and mothers, the families… whole tribes were decimated. That’s where the word ‘redskin’ comes from.”

Earlier in the week at a press conference for the protest, University of Minnesota law student Aubrey Stangan explained how the protest would be an event to come together and speak out highlighting the history of scalping, colonialism and genocide. The protest featured over 29 speakers, including the mayor of Minneapolis, the former governor of Minnesota, a congressperson, a former Vikings player and many tribal leaders from around the United States.

Also speaking at the press conference, Spike Moss, a board member of the NAACP, added the long history of oppression shared between African Americans and Native Americans and the need for unity and solidarity. Native American and former Vikings defensive back Joey Browner added, “As a former player I feel really sad right now.” Continuing, he stated, “We’re not mascots.”

Clyde Bellecourt cited precedent for changing the name, pointing out that 22,000 universities, colleges and high schools have changed their names, including all of the Minnesota state high schools. University of Minnesota student and Students for a Democratic Society member Matt Boynton asked, “What is the purpose of keeping the name other than money?”

Protests of Washington’s team name date back to at least 1972. Minneapolis has a long tradition of protesting racism in sports, including protests of the Washington football team name during the 1992 Super Bowl hosted in Minneapolis and the 1991 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians.