Gary Clark knows the controversy that has long surrounded the Redskins team name. He knows Washington’s football team might be in the process of making a stunning change. He does not believe that should happen.
Clark, one of the franchise’s greatest wide receivers, played eight seasons as a Redskin, won two Super Bowls as a Redskin. He has also spent time at reservations working with Native American communities and talking about the team name.
What he heard convinced him that a name change is not necessary, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Julie Donaldson – even as the team announced Friday it will undergo a ‘thorough review’ and the franchise could be known by a different moniker sometime soon. He speaks from personal experience and in language as fiery and passionate as how he once played the game.
“The reason I initially visited the Native American reservations was because people were saying that saying the word Redskins was like saying the [N-word] to a black person,” Clark told Donaldson on Friday. “And if indeed that was true then I would definitely have been on the side of changing the name. Hence why I wanted to go to the reservation myself.”
“And what I found was Native Americans wearing Redskins gear and saying that they were proud to be a Redskin fan and the 5% that weren’t Redskins fans were Cowboys fans and that’s why they didn’t like the name.”
Clark indeed made at least three trips to reservations that were sponsored by the Redskins with other ex-players. They conducted football camps and interacted with Native Americans and tried to get a sense of how that community viewed the name.
What Clark heard then stays with him now. And despite Friday’s news and the increasing pressure from sponsors and the NFL to make a switch, he believes that the community itself does not find “Redskins” offensive and that the name ultimately should stay. That appears unlikely to happen. Clark remains steadfast.
“Saying the word Redskins is not the same as saying the [N-word] because you won’t find ONE BLACK PERSON who would say I’m PROUD TO BE A [N-word] .... NOT ONE “ Clark wrote in a text to Donaldson. “So in my experiences with Native Americans, I’ve only had approving comments of the name Redskins except for those Native American Cowboys Fans.”
Clark’s 2014 trip was to the Rocky Boy’s Reservation in Montana, where he visited Chippewa-Cree tribal leaders. The team’s charity foundation funded playgrounds and provided computer equipment for dozens of Native American communities over the past decade as protests of the nickname began rising, especially at road games in western cities like Phoenix and Denver.
Clark has in the past publicly rejected criticism that said the Redskins were trying to buy support for the team name from tribal leaders. And while the social climate in the United States has changed since the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd on May 25 in police custody, Clark’s personal belief is that the Redskins name should not be part of that important conversation.
“You can’t put everybody in one box,” Clark said.
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