The Minnesota Vikings will be playing their games on the campus of the University of Minnesota this season, and the school is seeking to avoid using the nickname of the Washington Redskins on “promotional and game date materials” when that team visits Nov. 2.
The Washington Post reported that university president Eric W. Kaler wrote a letter on Aug. 1 to U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) in response to a letter McCollum sent Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. McCollum urged Wilf to condemn the Redskins’ team name in the letter, and Kaler's letter was in agreement.
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McCollum asked Wilf to take a stand against the “hateful slur” of a nickname when the Redskins visit TCF Bank Stadium in Week 9 this season. NFL teams split revenues of licensed merchandise equally.
However, it appears that the Vikings, who are bound by NFL marketing guidelines, have their hands tied on this issue. In a statement released to Shutdown Corner, Lester Bagley, the Vikings' Executive Vice President - Public Affairs & Stadium Development, said:
As an organization, we are very sensitive to this issue. Not only do we have a significant Native American population in Minnesota, but the Vikings have strong relationships with several tribes in the state. We have had an ongoing, respectful dialogue with Native American leaders and other community leaders over the past few years, and those conversations will continue moving forward. At the same time, the Vikings are one of 32 NFL teams, and NFL policies obligate us to operate and market the game on November 2 as we would any other game against any other opponent.
So if you want to boil it down, that final line of the statement speaks volumes: The NFL would be livid if the university or the Vikings tried to prevent the Redskins name from being used during a game they were hosting.
In the original letter, McCollum wrote:
“The time for debate has ended — the name of the Washington franchise is clearly an offensive racial slur. I urge you, as an NFL team owner, to not remain silent on this matter any longer.”
The Vikings and the school have met once on the issue and reportedly plan on further talks.
Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie told the Post on Wednesday night that the team does not agree with the school’s effort to bar the Redskins’ name, saying, “We have met many native Americans from Minnesota who agree with our position and feel we are using the term correctly and honorably."
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has gone on a recent campaign, both on local radio and ESPN's "Outside the Lines" show, to defend the team's nickname, which he says is a term of honor and respect.
The Vikings are using the stadium on the University of Minnesota campus for the next two seasons while their new stadium is being erected. The team will pay the school a reported $250,000 weekly rental fee for the games.
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