Why does this matter? Thanks to the Minnesota legislature, the state is currently building the Minnesota Vikings a new football stadium in Minneapolis, so the Vikes have to play their home games at the University of Minnesota’s nearby football stadium. That means that the NFL is a guest at the Golden Gophers’ home field, and UMinn wants their guests to play by their rules:
The University of Minnesota is working with the Minnesota Vikings in an effort to keep the Washington Redskins’ name from being used in “promotional and game date materials” during the NFL teams’ Nov. 2 game at the school’s stadium in Minneapolis, according to an Aug. 1 letter from university President Eric W. Kaler to U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.).
It is unclear to what degree the Vikings are collaborating in this process.
Kaler was responding to a June letter from McCollum to Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf — to which the university president was copied — urging the owner to condemn the Redskins’ team name. McCollum argued that Wilf needed to take a stand against “that hateful slur” because all of the NFL teams split the sales of their licensed merchandise equally.
McCollum’s letter came after the Patent and Trademark Office ruling that essentially put the Redskins name in the public domain. According to the Post (also carried by the Star Tribune in today’s edition), McCollum warned Kaler that mentioning the Redskins name would violate UMinn policies:
McCollum alleged that the Redskins’ presence at the university’s stadium would violate the institution’s Board of Regents’ policy on affirmative action, diversity and equal opportunity. She also noted that the stadium was built with funding from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux.
It was unclear whether the university decided to take its own actions based on McCollum’s encouragement. The university is hosting all of the Vikings’ home games while the NFL team awaits the construction of its new stadium. The Associated Press has reported that the Vikings will pay the university $250,000 for every game.
That may be a problem for the university. Does the contract with the Vikings and/or the NFL specify how the teams have to be identified? If so, then UMinn won’t have much wiggle room — and it’s a little difficult to believe that the league doesn’t have that kind of language in its contracts. If UMinn signed a contract containing language that addresses that issue, then they have no choice but to comply.
The response from Kaler seems to suggest that’s the case, too, by informing McCallum that they’re working with Wilf and his team on the controversy. That implies that they’re looking for the Vikings to give them some leeway to impose the ban. Will they? The Twin Cities environment is definitely progressive/academic, and now that the issue has been raised, the Vikings have to know that they’ll get a lot of flack over their visiting team in the week leading up to the game.
NBC’s Mike Florio thinks that the team may be taking this request seriously — and demonstrates the discomfort other owners might be feeling over the controversy:
Vikings executive V.P. of public affairs Lester Bagley said that the team is still deciding how it will handle the university’s request that the Vikings avoid using the name, and that a meeting on the issue occurred in late July.
“We take the issue very seriously, but we’re just getting ready for our season and we’ve been very focused on training camp and the preseason, and to be honest, we don’t have a game plan for our Nov. 2 game versus Washington,” Bagley told thePost.
The fact that Bagley said anything other than “Why in the hell wouldn’t we mention the name of the team we’re playing?” shows that, despite whatever support Snyder may be getting privately, other owners aren’t willing to publicly co-sign the team’s position that anyone who has a concern about the name is wrong, unreasonable, and/or trolling for clicks.
I’m agnostic on the whole naming controversy; both sides have good arguments. It’s up to the owner of the team and the league to decide how much cost they want to incur over the name, and to consumers whether they want to participate or protest the status quo. This is, however, another reason why public funds should not be used to build sports arenas for privately-owned pro sports teams that rake in billions on their own. If Wilf built his own stadium, the issue would never have been more than academic, but now he’s at least potentially at the mercy of Academia. I wonder what else UMinn might demand from the team in the future to host games on their campus …