STERLING, Va. – Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder said Tuesday it's time for people to "focus on reality" concerning Native American matters instead of criticizing the team's nickname.
"We understand the issues out there, and we're not an issue," Snyder said. "The real issues are real-life issues, real-life needs, and I think it's time that people focus on reality."
Challenged by those who consider the name "Redskins" offensive, Snyder and his staff recently traveled to Native American reservations and last month established a foundation to assist American Indian tribes. He had declined requests to answer questions about the foundation until Tuesday.
Snyder has insisted he will not change the Redskins' name, calling it a "badge of honor." He did not directly answer when asked to respond to those who say the foundation is a way of throwing money at the problem to placate critics. He instead cited the work behind the creation of the foundation.
"I think it tells you that we did our homework — unlike a lot of people," he said.
The Oneida Indian Nation, which has been at the forefront of the push to change the team's name, said Snyder is the one who needs to come to grips with reality.
"If Dan Snyder thinks it is acceptable for a billionaire to market, promote and profit off of a dictionary defined racial slur, then he's living in an alternate universe," Oneida spokesman Ray Halbritter said in a statement. "If he wants to focus on reality, here's a reality check: the longer he insists on slurring Native Americans, the more damage he will keep doing to Native American communities, and the more he will become synonymous with infamous segregationist George Preston Marshall, who originally gave the team this offensive name."
Snyder rarely takes questions from reporters, and his brief remarks came after a ceremony at a local high school. The Redskins are donating $100,000 of the $1 million cost to refurbish the school's sports field.
Asked about the Redskins' splashiest offseason move — signing free agent DeSean Jackson — Snyder downplayed his role, distancing himself from his reputation of being actively involved in personnel decisions.
"When you look at the fact that the head coach and the general manager said this is the right move, the only thing I can do is support it," Snyder said. "And that's what I've done, and it's been great. I've spent a little time with him, and he's really a good guy."
The Redskins lured Jackson from the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles, where the three-time Pro Bowl receiver was scrutinized for questionable work habits and off-field issues. Snyder said Jackson doesn't get enough credit for doing charity work. The owner also can't wait to see his newest acquisition on the field.
"That's going to be exciting — and not just the two games against Philly," Snyder said. "We got tired of seeing him score a lot of touchdowns against us."
Snyder was given a chance to address one other hot-button issue — whether his relationship with franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III contributed to the tension between Griffin and coach Mike Shanahan last season.
Snyder responded: "First of all, we're moving forward. We're proud of our quarterback, proud of our head coach."
The Redskins fired Shanahan at the end of the 3-13 season and replaced him with Jay Gruden.
"There's a lot of positive energy," Snyder said. "It's great to see, and everyone's enthusiastic every day and we just need to translate that to the field."
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