The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority won't block the use of the word "Redskins" when the NFL team from Washington, D.C. comes to Minneapolis next month to play the Minnesota Vikings.
Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said she is sympathetic to Native Americans and other opponents of the word, who say the mascot is a racist symbol. But she said the agency has no legal way to take action.
The stadium authority has limited legal authority to keep the word off of signs or the public address system, said its attorney, Jay Lindgren.
"Right or wrong, right now the word 'Redskins' is not a word that falls within the recognized exceptions to First Amendment protections," Lindgren told the authority's members. "So, I think your role is to allow free speech to occur."
American Indian Movement founder Clyde Bellecourt appeared before the authority to ask that the name be banned. He contends that allowing it creates a double standard in public policy.
"The R word is no different than the N word," Bellecourt said. "Would they have a mascot here called 'Little Black Sambo?' No. Would they have a bishop or would they have the Pope as a mascot for the New Orleans Saints? Instead of a war chant, sing the 'Ave Maria' and wave a crucifix up and down instead of a tomahawk? I don't think that would happen here."
Washington plays Minnesota on Nov. 7. The stadium authority plans to accommodate protesters outside the Metrodome for the Thursday night game.