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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 16:28 GMT
Redskins under fire for 'racist' name
Washington Redskins ground (Allsport)
The Redskins are one of America's favourite teams
The Washington Redskins - one of the oldest and most famous football teams in America - has come under pressure to change what critics say is its "morally unacceptable" name.

Officials on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments passed a resolution urging the team to change its name at the end of next season on the grounds that "redskin" was racially insulting to Native Americans.

The use of this degrading and dehumanising term for a team name is offensive and hurtful to native Americans

Carol Schwartz, MWCG

The resolution's principal backer, Carol Schwartz, told the Washington Times she was "very optimistic" that the team's owner Daniel Snyder would listen to the request.

However, the Redskins' Vice President Karl Swanson told the Associated Press that he was frustrated that the council had not sought Mr Snyder's views before adopting the resolution.

"We have no plans to change the name," he said.

In a separate interview Mr Swanson said the name was derived from the Native American tradition for warriors to daub their bodies with red clay before battle.

He told the Washington Times that he had sent Ms Schwartz a letter emphasising that the team had always aimed to portray an "honourable" image of Native Americans.

'Degrading' name

But Ms Schwartz told the paper that the word 'redskin' carried connotations of a time when bounties were placed on the heads of Native Americans, whose scalps were collected as proof of a kill.

Washington Redskins (Allsport)
The team started out as the Boston Braves

"The use of this degrading and dehumanising term for a team name is offensive and hurtful to native Americans and to many people who reject racial stereotypes and bigotry," she said.

Ms Schwartz said supporters could "easily get used to a new, non-offensive name".

The resolution was passed by the council, a regional co-ordinating body which holds little real power, by 11 to 2 with 5 abstentions.

Council criticised

One of its opponents, Fairfax County supervisor Gerald Connolly, criticised the motion and described its language as "inflammatory".

Mr Connolly said the resolution risked labelling Redskins fans bigots and suggested that any question of a name change should be more thoroughly examined.

The team was originally called the Boston Braves, becoming the Redskins after a move from Braves Field to Fenway Park in Boston in July 1933.

After a season in New York's Polo Grounds in 1936, the team's base shifted in 1937 to Washington, where it has remained.

See also:

15 Jan 00 | Americas
Native Americans regain land
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