NFL's Washington team offers donation to Monument Valley

Published September 12, 2014 11:46 pm
Preps • Navajo community debates accepting controversial gift from embattled organization.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The controversy over the Washington NFL football team's nickname has come to San Juan County.

Representatives of the NFL team's Original Americans Foundation attended last Friday night's football game between Whitehorse and Monument Valley.

According to the Navajo Times, the foundation offered Monument Valley $30,000 for its athletic program. But school district officials dispute that figure and said the donation needs to go through proper channels before it can be accepted.

San Juan County School District superintendent Douglas Wright said representatives of Washington team owner Dan Snyder contacted Monument Valley High School and had representatives at the game.

"They are offering to donate, but we don't know how much," said Wright, who said he would prefer to see the donation spread out to all other schools in the reservation area and not just Monument Valley.

"A meeting is set up for Thursday to start the process and see how they could possibly donate and not violate district procedures. It's all up in the air at this point," said Wright.

Washington NFL owner Dan Snyder, who has come under fire for the team's nickname by some members of Congress and Native American tribes, announced the launch of of the team's Original Americans Foundation in March.

According to Washington website, the "Foundation utilizes the national platform of professional sports organizations and their partners to address the challenges in the daily lives of Native Americans based on what Tribal leaders tell us they need the most."

It is being led by Gary Edwards, a Cherokee and retired Deputy Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret Service and the founder and chief executive officer of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association.

Snyder sent a letter to his team's fans on March 24.

"The fact is, too many Native American communities face much harsher, much more alarming realities," the NFL team owner said. "I've listened. I've learned. And frankly it's heart wrenching. It's not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more."

But, given the controversy over the team's Redskins nickname, at least one elected Navajo official in San Juan County was against taking the money. School board member Nelson Yellowman, who represents Monument Valley High School, said he was against taking the donation because of the nickname.

"It is derogatory," he said Tuesday. "It makes me wonder if this is a way for the NFL team to retain their team name."

Yellowman also expressed concern that money be divided evenly.

"We need to keep things as equitable as we can," he said. "If this is what the Redskins want to do, we might as well get all the other schools involved and spread the wealth, rather than focussing on one school.

"If I had my way, we would refuse it. We've got issues to deal with and we don't need any more distractions than we already have."

Under the new Utah State school grading system, Yellowman said Monument Valley and Whitehorse received the second and third worst raatings for high schools. He said the board needs to concentrate on improving the schools and their academics.

San Juan County Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy, who represents the Navajo Nation on the commission, said that there is a need for more money for area high schools.

He pointed out that Red Mesa High School, a Navajo school in Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., about 25 miles south of the Utah State line, has the same nickname as the Washington team and that other high schools have similar names.

"Any contribution for the needs of each high school should be up to the night schools and to the parents," he said, adding that "any contribution to enhance our high schools in San Juan County, Utah, is very muich needed."

Superintendent Wright said he expects some controversy.

"There is not an overwhelming concern coming from the community," he said. "But I anticipate that as we deal directly with the organization, we may receive more concern than we have in the past."

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" released a Langer Research poll Tuesday of 1,019 Americans that found 71 percent favored keeping the Redskins' nickname, down from 89 percent when the question was first asked 22 years ago. It also found that 68 percent of people responding think the nickname is not disrespectful of Native Americans, compared to just nine percent who say it is a lot disrespectful. The complete poll can be found on http://www.ESPN.com.


Twitter @tribtomwharton



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