Faced with a human-rights complaint backed by the Assembly of First Nations, an Ottawa youth football club is retiring the “Redskins” name – saying the moniker is offensive and has become divisive.
Nepean Redskins president Steve Dean is scheduled to comment on the move Friday afternoon. The name-change comes after an Ojibwa man, Ian Campeau, filed a complaint about the name to Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal.
Mr. Campeau was seeking a name change, and launched the complaint earlier this month. The football club didn’t immediately say what it would do, but will now voluntarily give up the “Redskins” colours and name, which it adopted 32 years ago to mimic the NFL’s Washington Redskins. A new name will be picked after this year’s season, which ends in November.
“Our members, past and present, have voiced strong support for the club and its ideals. While the ‘Redskins’ name was chosen in alliance with the Washington Redskins of the National Football League, the club understands that the current name is offensive to some, and thus divisive to our community,” Mr. Dean said in a written statement.
Mr. Campeau had long complained to the volunteer-run football club, which balked at the change largely because of what it will cost to replace jerseys, logos and signage at its field. It now pegs that cost at $100,000, and says the name-change process will take “a number of years.” The club will move forward as quickly as it can afford, or “at a pace that will ensure the youth programs remain financially accessible to all in the community,” it said.
About 550 kids and volunteers run the flag, tackle, touch and cheer programs with the club, based in the Ottawa suburb of Nepean. “The Club will continue to promote excellence in all of its endeavours, set a positive standard in our undertakings, and be a leader in representing the community in which we live,” Mr. Dean added in his statement.
Mr. Campeau’s formal complaint had the backing of the Assembly of First Nations, and was taken on pro-bono by a major law firm. It left the youth football club facing an expensive transition or a lengthy, high-profile legal battle.
AFN chief Shawn Atleo had called the Redskins name “hurtful and completely inappropriate,” saying “it is unfortunate that this step must be taken as a last resort.”
The NFL’s Redskins, which are among North America’s most valuable sports franchises, have also faced pressure to change their name. Ten members of Congress reiterated the request in a letter earlier this year. But team owner Dan Snyder said earlier this year that “we’ll never change the name.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had previously sided with Mr. Snider, but was widely seen to have softened his stance last week in an interview with a Washington-area sports radio show. He said it was Mr. Snyder’s decision, but said the league has to listen to fans. “If one person is offended, we have to listen,” Mr. Goodell said.