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Battle over 'Redskins' name comes to Minnesota

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Activists who object to the NFL team name "Redskins" are expected to protest at Thursday night's game in Minneapolis between the Washington team and the Minnesota Vikings. Organizers have said they expect "hundreds" to participate.

The rally is being organized by the Minneapolis-based American Indian Movement. AIM leader Clyde Bellecourt plans to lead activists on an afternoon march from the American Indian Center to the Metrodome, FOX 9 reports.

Activists say the team name and mascot are racist and offensive. "It's time for it to go," Bellecourt said, FOX 9 reported. "We're saying, 'The r-word is no different than the n-word.'"

Washington team owner Daniel Snyder has said the team name is deeply rooted in the history and tradition of the 81-year-old team, and he dismisses claims that the name is racist. He defended the name in a letter to fans last month.

Among those expected at the protest in support of the cause is former Vikings safety Joey Browner, who was inducted into the team's Ring of Honor last month.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who has emerged as a high-profile leader in the movement to ban the team name, is also expected to attend, the Star Tribune reports. “It’s not a boycott, it’s not a protest against the NFL, it’s a protest against a racial slur,” McCollum told the newspaper.

Twin Cities leaders sent a message of support to the protesters. Like the Minneapolis City Council, the seven-member St. Paul council signed an open letter to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday "expressing their disapproval of the Washington Redskins name and mascot," the Pioneer Press reports.

The Washington, D.C., Council this week also voted to call on the team to change the name, saying it is widely recognized as “racist and derogatory,” the Washington Post reported.

USA Today recently collected a sampling of opinions on the issue from an array of columnists. Among them:

Gail Shister, Philadelphia Magazine: "If it's so damn important, why aren't Native Americans in an uproar, or, at the very least, picketing every game at FedEx Field? Because, according to reports, a majority of them are cool with it."

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon: "Tradition' is a lousy reason to stick with anything that is no longer relevant or appropriate. 'Tradition' is the excuse offered for refusing to support marriage equality or keeping women out of all-male venues or thinking it's quaint to hire people to dress up to recreate the slavery era."

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