Updated: November 2, 2014


Snyder Stimulates More Controversy As He Scatters Aid to Native Americans

 By:-Gary Norris Gray-BASN-Staff Reporter

Arthur George contributor

            As Daniel Snyder solicits Native Americans in his struggle to maintain the R-word nickname of his National Football League Washington Football Club, his efforts have brought some support, much controversy, and some outright rejection as bribes.

Even his successes have been characterized as cynical connections made with pre-selected tribes bought off with relatively inexpensive trinkets compared to the millions made in the National Football League.

In March 2014, Snyder created the “Original Americans Foundation” (OAF) to develop an awareness of needs of Indian country and to improve the quality of life of Native Americans on reservations.  The foundation followed the controversy over the football team’s name, calling into question how genuine was the motivation for the foundation.

A variety of commentators, sensitive to Native American issues, have suggested that rather than focus on the team name, the activism against the name should focus on such issues as tribal corruption, inadequate housing, unemployment, diabetes, alcoholism, and high-suicide rates on reservations. Another commentator suggested that if Snyder had any genuine concern for Native America he should make his donations anonymously and just change the name and be a part of helping Indian country without continuing the controversy around the name. 


Snyder and OAF donated more than 3,000 cold-weather coats last winter to several tribes in the plains states, gave shoes to boys and girls basketball teams, and assisted in the purchase of a backhoe for the Omaha tribe in Nebraska. It built a playground for the Chippewa Cree tribe in Montana and gave other support for a rodeo team, basketball tournament, and iPads for schoolchildren there.  Cree spokesmen told USA Today they were happy for the assistance.

However, another tribe, the Quechan (Kwatsan) in Yuma, Arizona, dismissed as a public relations ploy an offer to build a skate park. When it was discovered that The Washington Football Club was sponsoring a Navajo golf tournament in April in Chandler, Arizona, a number of native organizations dropped their participation.

Kenrick Escalanti, leader of the effort to build the skate park dedicated to suicide prevention of tribal youth, said the effort by the Washington team was a public relations ploy which the tribe rejected.  The proposed design was in the Burgundy and Gold team colors, and prominently featured team signage. “We will not align ourselves with an organization to simply become a statistic in their fight for name acceptance in native communities. We’re stronger than that and we know bribe money when we see it,” Escalanti said. “The sacrifice we took to say no wasn’t an easy one,” he said. “We wish we could help the kids today by taking the partnership. We’re trying to teach our community and the youth that we can do things the right way. We don’t have to accept this type of money from these people.”

Other Native Americans have supported Snyder, although with mixed reactions. Snyder had Ben Shelly, lame duck president of the Navajo Nation, in his luxury box at an NFL game, even though the Navajo Nation Council voted 9-2 against the use of the nickname.  Snyder provided game tickets, tailgate barbecue, and bus transportation to members of the Zuni Pueblo and Navajo Nation when his team played the Arizona Cardinals.

A scant quorum of the Navajo Code Talkers Association, elderly veterans of World War II, endorsed the name of The Washington Football Club, and several of its members were honored at a Washington game, bedecked in new Washington jackets, sparking outrage among Navajos who saw their elders being duped by Snyder’s PR machinations.


OAF’s point man is its Executive Director Gary L. Edwards, a Cherokee, and CEO of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. His allegiances, and approach, have been much criticized.

The president of the National Indian Gaming Association, Ernie Stevens Jr., said “The Washington Redskins have found themselves an Indian,” in Edwards, “and through this Indian they’re going to try to buy off Indian country and attempt to convince Indian country that something so racist and so horrible [as the team name] is okay and good. Indian country is not for sale and all the scholarships in the world are not going to buy an allegiance to racism.”  It was Stevens who suggested that Snyder show genuine concern for Native America through anonymous donations to help Indian country and abandon the team name.

Edwards and his staff provoked a similar negative reaction among the Quechan (Kwatsen) tribe. Escalanti said he was bothered by the reaction when Snyder’s representatives learned the skate park would be dedicated to fallen Native youth: “You could see their eyes open up big, like they could smell good PR. And that really irritated me.”  Escalanti said the park proposed by OAF “wasn’t just a park, it was corporate branding. It was all in burgundy and gold (Washington team colors), and the logo was all over.”

Escalanti also said that Edwards peddled concepts that weren’t selling in Yuma. Escalanti told USA Today that Edwards proclaimed himself a “proud ‘redskin,’” maintained that the name stands for pride, courage and intelligence; and that people who oppose the name are part of a white, liberal agenda. Edwards seemed to be asserting that the nickname of the club, rather than being a slur, was necessary to preserve Native American identity.

Escalanti told the Arizona Republic that Edwards “brought up key words that you just don’t bring up in Indian country, like assimilation, annihilation. And he tried to talk down about white people, saying they’re the oppressor.” Escalanti said that Edwards made an impassioned plea for Native American strength against white aggression: “The last words he said to us were, ‘We need to get stronger, because if we don’t, they will annihilate us.’”

Jackie Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, the oldest and largest organization of Native Americans, rejected Snyder’s method of contacting tribes as “cherry-picking.”

“Snyder and his employees should stop using cheap PR tactics to imply that they’re honoring the very Native Americans who are telling him that we are offended and are being ignored.  If Dan Snyder really wants to hear opinions from Indian Country, maybe he should accept our continued invitations to meet and discuss this issue, or ask the major tribal organizations what they think.

“Rather than dropping by cherry-picked reservations in his private jet with promises of new iPads and skate parks branded with the team logo, why doesn’t he take the time to meet with Native American organizations which have zero financial interest in a name change to hear why we think it’s such a vital issue for he and his team to stop denigrating us with their racist mascot?”

Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network on Disabled Community Activist. Email at

©Copyrighted Gary Norris Gray @ Gray Leopard Prod

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