- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Washington Redskins dismissed the idea that they were starting a foundation to deflect controversy over their nickname by buying support.
"If anyone says that, they're insulting Native Americans," general manager Bruce Allen said. "And I would take offense at that on their behalf. They obviously don't know what they're talking about."
The Redskins, under heavier siege over the past year to change the name, announced Monday night that they were starting a foundation called the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. The goal, the team said, is to provide resources to help Native American tribes throughout the country.
The news was met with skepticism by those who have been prominent in the fight to have the nickname changed.
"I'm glad that he's had a realization that Native Americans have it tough in the United States," Suzan Shown Harjo, a leader in the fight against the Redskins' name, told The Associated Press on Monday night. "All sorts of people could have told him that, and have been trying to tell him that for a long time.
"Will [the foundation] do much of anything? No. But it probably won't hurt except that it will continue the cycle of negative imaging of Native American people in the public arena."
The Redskins said they surveyed 100 tribes to determine what they wanted or needed. They also visited with a number of tribal leaders and tribal councils. The Redskins said they will base their help on the needs of those asking. Gary Edwards, who is in charge of the foundation, said they already have 40 active projects.
Edwards, who is Cherokee, has served as the CEO of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association since 1993. He did not know Allen until a friend of his, a neighbor of Allen's, suggested they talk.
Edwards said none of the tribal leaders they visited declined support because of the team name.
"In all the surveys everyone asked us to come and not one indicated they had a problem with it," Edwards said. "When we sit down with the tribal leaders and tribal council and tribal elders, they've got so many quality-of-life needs that if the name of a football team is on a list somewhere, it's down around 379.5. You're going to hear about ... basics of water, food and shelter to education and sports programs for the youth ... wellness, health care, transportation."
He echoed Allen's sentiment about the intent of the foundation.
"All they've got to do is go back and look at my career and what I have done in Indian country and the things I tried to work with," Edwards said. "We did a lot with very little. If they go and look since I've been with this organization since mid-November, what we've done they can see is for real. It's the right thing to do."
Allen said there's widespread support for the foundation in the NFL.
"We heard from other teams who want to jump on the foundation's bandwagon," he said.