The new owners of the Washington Commanders appear to have a powerful ally as they continue to grapple with a culture-war clash over the organization’s historic — and already discarded — Redskins name and logo.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), a major Native American rights organization, had issued calls to get rid of the Redskins name for decades. Last week, it touted its efforts at “fostering a proactive partnership” with the NFL team.
The NCAI is funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundations as well as other left-leaning groups. It is also funded through American taxpayer dollars from an array of federal departments, according to claims by the group itself.
Now, the politically connected organization is facing a grassroots uprising. Other Native Americans around the nation want the NFL team to reclaim the Redskins legacy — and these Native American groups say history is on their side.
Yet the NCAI has led a decades-long effort to remove Native American images and history from the national discourse.
The NCAI “has tracked the retirement of more than 200 unsanctioned Native ‘themed’ mascots since 2019, and has supported legislation banning the use of these mascots in multiple states,” the group said in a statement to Fox News Digital.
On its site, the NCAI shows that it receives support from seven different taxpayer-funded bureaucracies of the federal government, including the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Justice.
The NCAI also lists among its supporters the Soros’ Open Society Foundations — which, according to its critics, promotes woke ideology, racial division and a simplistic binary narrative of American history.
Those critics include a different chorus of Native Americans — who say they are fighting to save their heritage and preserve their important contributions to American history.
And these other Native Americans have urged the new owners of the NFL’s Commanders to bring back the franchise’s historic Redskins name and logo and use the opportunity to share a powerful, positive story of Native American contributions to the U.S.
The effort to reclaim the Redskins legacy includes a petition by the North Dakota-based Native American Guardians Association (NAGA), which has generated more than 130,000 signatures this summer.
“Going back to the old name is not being considered. Period.” — Washington Commander president Jason Wright
Last week, though, the Commanders appeared to slam the door on their effort and on that franchise heritage.
“Going back to the old name is not being considered. Period,” team president Jason Wright said on 106.7 “The Fan” in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Aug. 30, the day after Fox News Digital reported that NAGA had been labeled a “fake group” by a team representative.
The Commanders organization later clarified that the individual did not speak for the team.
As for the NCAI, It “receives grants from left-wing foundations like the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations,” reports InfluenceWatch.org.
NCAI “has received over $26 million in funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation,” adds InfluenceWatch.
“This whole group is out there banning names and images. That’s how you erase a culture.” — NAGA’s Eunice Davidson, Dakota Sioux
Wright’s statement was echoed later that day in a tweet and a press release from the NCAI, stating that it opposes the Redskins name and is “committed to fostering a proactive partnership with the Washington Commanders leadership.”
To Eunice Davidson, a Dakota Sioux and president of NAGA, the “proactive partnership” that the NCAI said it would like to foster with the Commanders suggests further that leftists and “racist White woke” elitists want to erase Native American images and history from the national consciousness.
“The timing [of the two groups’ statements] is very coincidental,” Davidson told Fox News Digital.
“This whole group [the NCAI] is out there banning names and images,” she said. “That’s how you erase a culture. You forget about people if you don’t see them after a while.”
Soros or his foundations have successfully supported far-left district attorney candidates in big cities around the nation.
Victories by these DAs have been followed by increased crime and a decreased quality of life in several cities, hurting minority communities the most, critics note and the data support.
The Soros family funds grant-making organizations such as Open Society, which doles out cash to left-leaning organizations and political candidates.
The NCAI has actively engaged in erasing Native American imagery from public view at least since the 1980s, charges Davidson of NAGA.
Currently, the NCAI website touts its own efforts to remove Native American images in 21 states.
Its website says, “NCAI is the oldest, largest and most representative national organization sharing the unified voice of hundreds of Tribal Nations representing millions of Native people, and that voice has been consistent and clear for decades: unsanctioned sports mascots are symbols of disrespect that degrade, mock and harm Native people, particularly Native youth.”
“The use of unsanctioned themed sports mascots perpetuates harm and dehumanizes our citizens.” — National Congress of American Indians
NCAI executive director Larry Wright Jr. wrote in response to the Commanders’ public statement last week, “The use of unsanctioned themed sports mascots perpetuates harm and dehumanizes our citizens.”
But the pro-Redskins group NAGA asserts that the NCAI does not represent a majority opinion among Native Americans.
Group issued 2013 report calling for end to ‘legacy of racism in sports’
The NCAI has led calls to retire the Redskins for decades.
The group issued a report in 2013 entitled “Ending the Legacy Of Racism in Sports & the Era of Harmful ‘Indian’ Sports Mascots.”
The report referred to the team nickname as ‘Redsk*ns” and claimed that NCAI’s effort to “bring an end to negative and harmful stereotypes in media and popular culture” began in 1968.
The NCAI “has passed a number of resolutions on the issue, specifically in 1993 calling on the Washington football team to end the use of the team’s name and in 2005 in support of the NCAA ban on ‘Indian’ mascots, nicknames and imagery in postseason play,” the report states.
The report blamed “the intolerance and harm promoted by ‘Indian’ mascots” such as the Redskins on a long list of social ills, including suicide, violence and low self-esteem among Native American youth.
“Widely consumed images of Native American stereotypes in commercial and educational environments slander, defame and vilify Native peoples,” the 2013 report said.
Davidson of NAGA, meanwhile, said that the new owners of the Washington’s NFL franchise refuse to speak to her group.
NAGA sent a letter to Commanders’ management on August 7 “formally requesting that the team revitalize its relationship with the American Indian community.”
The letter also asked that the franchise use “the team’s historic name and legacy to encourage Americans to learn about, not cancel, the history of America’s tribes and our role in the founding of this Great Nation.”
Said Davidson, “They never tell our story and that’s their goal. To wipe out Native history.”
She added, “It’s discrimination when you go after one culture like this. It’s not a good feeling. They don’t even know us … They’ve never talked to us. The won’t even talk to us.”
Origins of Redskins name and logo
The Redskins name and logo are deeply rooted in the multicultural and foundational history of the United States, according to numerous primary and academic sources.
The name and logo promote a powerful narrative of pride and diversity, supporters argue.
The NFL franchise debuted as the Boston Braves in 1932. Its original name and logo represented inspirational 17th-century Lenni Lenape chief Tamanend, also known as Tammany.
The team kept the Tammany imagery when it moved to Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox, in 1933, and changed its name to the Redskins.
“The Redskins were the only minority representation in the entire NFL and it was a real person, not a mascot.” — Andre Billeaudeaux
Tammany was celebrated by the Founding Fathers and the troops who fought in the American Revolution as the “Patron Saint of America.”
The “men spent the day in mirth and jollity … in honor of King Tammany,” an aide to George Washington wrote after the deadly winter at Valley Forge in May 1778.
Statues of “Saint Tammany” stand sentinel at the U.S. Naval Academy and watch over the dead of New York’s 42nd Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as the Tammany Regiment, on the Gettysburg battlefield.
William Lone Star Dietz was hired as the first head coach of the Redskins in 1933.
He was a star football player at Carlisle Indian School, where he was a teammate of legendary Native American athlete Jim Thorpe. Dietz was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
He was the first Native American coach in NFL history, though the heritage he espoused has since been challenged. He led a team that included five Native Americans on the roster.
The Redskins moved to Washington, D.C. in 1937. The franchise freshened its original Tammany-inspired logo before the 1972 season.
The new version was designed by Blackfeet Native Walter “Blackie” Wetzel and was intended to represent Blackfeet Chief John Two Guns White Calf.
The Blackfeet Native logo enjoyed input and overwhelming approval from Native American groups across the country.
The team, under former owner Dan Snyder, ditched the Redskins name and the proud Blackfeet image on July 13, 2020.
“The R-word is destined for the dustbin of history — it’s not a question of if, but when, and that time is now,” NCAI President Fawn Sharp said in a July 2020 statement, as pressure mounted on the team.
“NCAI calls upon the major corporate sponsors of the National Football League to join FedEx in calling for the immediate retirement of the Washington team’s name and mascot,” NCAI said in the same release, while advocating for a boycott against the team.
Andre Billeaudeaux, author of the book “How the Redskins Got Their Name,” told Fox News Digital, “The Redskins were the only minority representation in the entire NFL and it was a real person, not a mascot.”
“We will not be silenced or intimidated by a woke executive shill or NCAI hijacking and defaming Native Americans and U.S. history.” — Eunice Davidson
He said the Redskins name was adopted from a cherished Native American ceremony in which warriors painted themselves red with bloodroot — and labeled efforts to erase the name and heritage “toxic ignorance.”
‘A sense of pride’
A 2016 poll by The Washington Post revealed that 90% of Native Americans who were surveyed supported the Redskins name and logo.
Today, at least three Native-majority high schools embrace the Redskins legacy.
The Red Mesa (Arizona) High School Redskins installed a new football field this summer with a Redskins logo splashed across the 50-yard line.
Students at Wellpinit (Washington) High School voted to keep the school’s Redskins mascot in March, rejecting calls to erase history and heritage by local Democrat leaders.
The school is 87% Native American, according to the Department of Education.
Kingston (Oklahoma) High School is also a majority Native American school that embraces the Redskins.
“Nobody personally to me has ever complained about our mascot,” Kingston athletic director Taylor Wiebener told KXII.com in 2020. “The people that I’ve talked to, they have a sense of pride about our name, and about our mascot being the Redskin.”
Commanders president Wright incited a backlash from fans on social media after he rejected efforts to reclaim the Redskins.
“Let’s start a petition to fire Jason Wright,” posted Blair Willard on the “Redskins Fans Forever” Facebook page, which includes more than 64,000 members.
“Time to boycott till they change the name back, period,” Patrick Gould wrote in the same group.
“We will not be silenced or intimidated by a woke executive shill or NCAI hijacking and defaming Native Americans and U.S. history — when the facts are on our side,” Davidson said in a statement that NAGA posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Fox News Digital reached out this week to the Commanders, and on Wednesday and Thursday to the Open Society Foundations, but did not hear back by time of publication.
The NCAI did not respond to questions about its sources of funding.
Last week, the Commanders told Fox News Digital in a statement, “For nearly 90 years, this franchise had a different name, and many have fond memories of cheering for that team and watching it win three Super Bowls.”
Recent statements by new ownership and speculation by fans, the team added, do “not signify any shift in our approach nor does it change the valid reasons for dropping the name.”