Secretary of Indian Affairs says D.C. controversy not resonating in NM
Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, is under pressure from politicians and various publications to change the name of his football team.
As it turns out, the name Redskins is of little consequence to the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department.
"It isn't a burning issue with us," said Arthur Allison, cabinet secretary of the department.
Allison, right, said tribal nations remain attuned to sports nicknames that are derogatory or offensive.
Still, when it comes to the Washington Redskins, "We've been kind of mute on it," Allison said Thursday.
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said that had been the case with New Mexicans as a whole.
"Tom's office is always open to New Mexicans and our state's tribal communities. He hasn't heard any formal input from New Mexicans about the team name," said Jennifer Talhelm.
The nation was still struggling with the federal government shutdown when USA Today devoted a front-page story to the Redskins name and whether Snyder should change his stand by changing the team mascot. A sports column in the same edition of USA Today predicted Snyder would have to give in soon.
We doubt it.
Allison wanted to talk about jobs, not the team's name. His position is understandable. Paychecks are more important than symbols.
Another factor on Snyder's side is history.
In the 1980s, then-U.S. Rep. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado called on the team to change its name.
Campbell who was the only American Indian in Congress, said he hated the name Redskins, calling it a slur. But his vigorous campaign to rename the NFL club went nowhere.
Campbell, below, pushed the issue on the home front too. In the 1990s, Arvada High School in suburban Denver changed its name from Redskins to Reds. Campbell, who was a U.S. senator by then, was a catalyst.
Stanford, Marquette and Miami University of Ohio are among the schools that changed team names from ones some considered offensive.
Stanford switched from Indians to Cardinal. Marquette went from Warriors to Golden Eagles to Gold and back to Golden Eagles. Miami of Ohio changed from Redskins to RedHawks.
The University of North Dakota "retired" its Fighting Sioux nickname based on a 2012 vote of state residents. The NCAA pressured the school administration for a change of mascots. In turn, the administration lobbied voters.
Sixty-seven percent voted to drop the Fighting Sioux name. North Dakota teams have no mascot for the time being.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania (it's in Indiana County, Pa.) once called its teams Indians. But in 1999, for political correctness, it made its mascot a black bear. To add to the confusion, the bear was named Cherokee.
In 2006, IUP made a clean break by renaming its teams the Crimson Hawks.
Snyder knows that campuses are far more likely to protest team names than are fans or even Indian Affairs officials.
On the professional level, Washington's NBA team changed its name from Bullets to Wizards, based on killing in the streets that reached epidemic levels.
Washington, D.C.'s Redskins are under no such duress.