Hundreds of Native Americans will gather outside Levi’s Stadium on Sunday to protest the nickname of the 49ers’ opponent.
The “Change the Name. Change the Mascot” rally is not expected to draw the thousands of protesters who showed up with signs and banners when the Washington Redskins played the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis earlier this month, but organizers said it is gaining strength.
Tony Gonzales, director of American Indian Movement-West, said he initially figured the rally would draw 200. He now expects double that amount. Gonzales said he has been working with the Santa Clara Police Department and that starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, a coalition of groups will set up near the city’s convention center, which is across the street from the stadium.
“We anticipate engaging 35,000, 40,000 people,” he said. “It’s a good spot.”
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Similar protests have occurred in cities where the Redskins have played this year. There were more than 100 protesters last month before a game in Glendale, Ariz. The Vikings game drew as many as 5,000.
Gonzales said many of the prominent Native Americans who attended the Minnesota rally – including Clyde Bellecourt, a co-founder of the American Indian Movement – will be on hand Sunday.
“We’re going to dog them in every city we can,” Gonzales said.
The Redskins mascot has been controversial for decades, but the campaign to change the name has picked up momentum in recent years. The California Assembly in August passed a resolution that called the nickname disparaging and urged the NFL to change it. Similar votes were taken in New York, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.
Two prominent NFL commentators, Phil Simms and Tony Dungy, have said they will try to avoid using the name. In June, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation in Yolo County ran a television ad during the NBA Finals that also denounced the mascot. Gonzales said the Yocha Dehe Wintun are not currently one of the groups that will be on hand Sunday but that he will approach them this week.
Washington’s owner, Dan Snyder, has vowed never to change the name. The team has pointed to polls that show support for the Redskins mascot nationwide, including a 2004 Annenberg Public Policy Center poll found that 9 out of 10 Native Americans were not offended by the name.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.