WASHINGTON — The Redskins offered to build a skate park for the Fort Yuma Kwatsan Tribe this week, but the head of the foundation leading the drive to build the park rejected the offer, calling it a “bribe.”
Kenrick Escalanti, president of Kwatsan Media Inc., is trying to raise $250,000 for a memorial skate park dedicated to fallen Native American youth.
In a statement, he says the tribe was contacted by the Redskins’ Original Americans Foundation and offered to build the park in burgundy and gold colors.
Members were told that accepting the money would not imply support for the team name. Escalanti refused the offer.
“We say, no. There are no questions about this. We will not align ourselves with an organization to simply become a statistic in their fight for name acceptance in Native communities. We’re stronger than that and we know bribe money when we see it.”
Jacqueline Keeler, an advocate for the tribe and a founding member of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, says what the Redskins’ Foundation did was underhanded.
“Obviously Dan Snyder’s group is doing this very quietly partly because they want to buy implicit support but they’re afraid of backlash because of what it really means. Buying cover for using an ethnic slur is really not the appropriate response,” she says.
“Tribal leaders from the Fort Yuma Quechan (Kwatsan) Tribe invited and met with staff from the Original Americans Foundation to discuss projects that needed funding in Yuma. The conversation centered around eight projects that the tribe requested assistance for projects that improved their quality of life and at no time during our on-site discussion did the tribe object to working with our foundation. We are very proud of the more than 145 projects in partnership with 40 tribes that we have worked on and will continue to do what we can for those in need. We will maintain our foundation’s policy of not disclosing our private conversations with tribal leaders.”
While Escalanti turned down the offer, the tribe has not reached a decision yet.
Keeler says there are ways to repair the relationship with the Native American community.
“If they were to change the name, they would have a huge outpouring of Native American support come this next season. Real support. Support they wouldn’t have to pay for,” Keeler says.