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Metrodome protesters condemn nickname of Vikings' opponent

As hundreds of protesters -- many American Indian, many not -- marched past the patio of Huberts Sports Bar & Grill on their way to the Metrodome for Thursday night's Vikings-Washington Redskins game, there was some barely muted scoffing.

From the innocuous "Go, Vikings!" to another patron who yelled, "It's not racist!," protesters close enough to hear smiled and raised their signs in response.

"Genocide should never be a mascot," one sign read.

"Redskins referred to my ancestors' scalps," said another.

At the entrance to the downtown Minneapolis bar, several members of the news media huddled around a man wearing the jersey of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.

"It may mean that to them.

It doesn't mean that to us," said Marc Orem, who came from Washington, D.C., to the Metrodome to watch his team play the Vikings. "They're a franchise in a private business ... they (protesters) should respect that."

In front of the Metrodome, tailgaters congregated, several wearing feathered hats above their red jerseys.

But in the shadow of Gate F, the air appeared equally festive as protesters gathered around a traditional dance group. American Indian Movement co-founder Clyde Bellecourt mocked those same "chicken feather hats and rubber tomahawks" as a mockery of culture that made light of not-so-distant travesties.

Alongside other Indian leaders and local politicians, a lineup of young speakers and parents drove home a common theme.

"My children don't want to be called names when they go to school," said one of the dancers, Susana De Leon of Minneapolis. "We stand together for our own dignity. ... We are indigenous. We will not stand out."

Speaker Steve Moon held up his toddler son. "It's this simple. It's right here. It's in front of us."

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said that in his sports broadcasting work, he tried never to use "the 'R' word" -- and apologized if he had.

"This name is wrong.

It's just plain wrong," he said.

Former Vikings safety Joey Browner said kids shouldn't have to hear the word in public. Gesturing to the stadium behind him, he added, "This is a public place."

Groups across the nation have been pressuring the NFL team to change its name. But Redskins owner Dan Snyder has called the name a "badge of honor" and said it won't be changed.

Earlier Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton took aim at the team's name, calling it antiquated, offensive and racist.

"I believe the name should be changed," Dayton said during a morning news conference that covered a range of topics.

Dayton noted that the team's hometown is the nation's capital, and he suggested members of Congress should petition the team to change it and boycott their games until they do.

In a news conference following Dayton's, state Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, the House minority leader, said the Redskins name was an issue for the local community in Washington to decide. He noted the controversy and debate over the University of North Dakota's former nickname, the Fighting Sioux.

"I don't know if it's racist or not," Daudt said. "There's probably two ways to look at it."

Also Thursday, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak released a statement calling the nickname disrespectful. Six members of the Minneapolis City Council recently sent a letter of protest to Synder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

At the Metrodome, an hour before game time, fans walked around the edge of the protest rally and watched curiously. Only a handful stopped and listened before heading to their seats.

Christopher Magan contributed to this report.


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