A Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Washington Redskins said last week that he believes the team's polarizing nickname should be viewed as a tribute to Native Americans.
Joe Theismann, a former NFL MVP who guided the Redskins to a world championship in 1983, told the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, S.D. that, when he slipped on the team's burgundy and yellow uniform, he viewed it as an homage to Native Americans.
“I was very proud to play for the Washington Redskins, and I did it to honor Native people in that regard," Theismann said. "I think sometimes people perceive words in their own particular way."
He said that the decision is ultimately up to team owner Daniel Snyder, who has vowed to never change the name.
"I can just tell you that when I put that uniform on, and I put that helmet on with the Redskin logo on it, I felt like I was representing more than the Washington Redskins, I was representing the great Native American nations that exist in this country," Theismann said.
Theismann was in South Dakota to help lead a football camp. While there, he said he visited a family of Native Americans who reacted favorably to the controversial name.
“I can tell you that when I was at the children’s hospital this morning, there was a young Native American boy there with his parents," he recalled. "His grandmother wanted a picture with me, and his father took the picture. And as I shook his hand the father said to me ‘You’re a Redskin,’ and he said it in a very complimentary way, which was very humbling to me."
Washington's professional football franchise has drawn increased scrutiny over the Redskins name in recent weeks. Ten members of Congress sent a letter to Snyder last month urging him to change the team's name, long viewed as a derogatory term for Native Americans.