Amid growing criticism that his team's nickname is offensive to Native Americans, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder announced the creation of a foundation meant to provide assistance to multiple tribes across the country.
The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation "will serve as a living, breathing legacy — and an ongoing reminder — of the heritage and tradition that is the Washington Redskins," Snyder wrote in a letter distributed by e-mail Monday night.
In that letter, Snyder shared the experiences he and members of his staff had in traveling to 26 reservations in 20 states over the last four months in an effort to better understand whether the team, and specifically its nickname and logo, were "upholding the principle of respect in regard to the Native American community."
The team's identity has been the subject of debate, and even litigation, for years. Last year, a lawsuit sought to revoke the team's federal trademark registration, though a ruling has not yet been made. Snyder has vociferously maintained that he will not change the logo or the nickname.
The foundation will be headed by Gary Edwards, a Cherokee who is also the chief executive officer of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association. Edwards, a retired deputy assistant director with the Secret Service, has testified before multiple House and Senate committees regarding homeland security and Indian affairs.
In visiting several reservations, Snyder wrote in the letter he encountered a variety of experiences, with members of some tribes faring well and others facing difficulties in their daily lives. He also surveyed 100 other communities, he wrote, to assess their needs.
"The more I heard, the more I've learned, and the more I saw, the more resolved I became about helping to address the challenges that plague the Native American community," Snyder wrote. "In speaking face-to-face with Native American leaders and community members, it's plain to see they need action, not words."
In the letter, Snyder, who was not made available for comment through a team spokesman, said the foundation has already begun assisting communities in need. It has already donated 3,000 winter coats to several tribes, including the Lower Brule Sioux tribe, located in South Dakota, and helped purchase a backhoe for the Omaha tribe in Nebraska so that it may assist with repairs to its water system and also to help complete the burial process for the deceased.
There are also 40 other projects the foundation currently has planned, Snyder wrote, though he did not clarify what would be done. Among the inadequacies noted on his travels were poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, insufficient school supplies and outdated textbooks and limited access to advancing technology.
"For too long, the struggles of Native Americans have been ignored, unnoticed and unresolved," Snyder wrote. "As a team, we have honored them through our words and on the field, but now we will honor them through our actions. We commit to the tribes that we stand together with you, to help you build a brighter future for your communities."
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