A major Native American organization has canceled its sponsorship of a charity golf tournament in Arizona on Saturday because it doesn't want to be associated with the event's title sponsor — the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.
The National Indian Gaming Association, a nonprofit that includes 184 Indian nations as members, made the decision to pull its sponsorship Friday after learning that the Redskins foundation was involved in the same event. Ernest Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, said his organization finds the NFL team's name to be offensive and is skeptical about the motives of the foundation recently started by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
"It's a blatant attempt to try to buy out the issue," Stevens told USA TODAY Sports.
The celebrity golf tournament in Chandler, Ariz., is to benefit Native American college students. Likewise, the stated mission of Snyder's foundation is to improve the lives of Native Americans. But some questioned whether Snyder started the foundation as a way to deflect criticism over his team's name.
Tournament organizers didn't immediately return a message seeking comment. The event is called "The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation 1st Annual KTNN Celebrity Golf Tournament."
"It hurts my heart to have to say that word," said Stevens, who declined to reveal the amount of the sponsorship involved.
The National Indian Gaming Association, based in Washington, D.C., strives to "protect and preserve the general welfare of tribes striving for self-sufficiency through gaming enterprises in Indian Country," according to its mission statement.
The sponsorship cancellation marks the latest controversy involving Snyder's foundation. Shortly after Snyder announced the start of the foundation last month, he was criticized for his choice to run the charity, Gary Edwards, whose background includes a controversial contract with the federal government's Bureau of Indian Affairs. As reported by USA TODAY Sports last month, Edwards runs the National Native American Law Enforcement Association, an organization that took advantage of the Bureau of Indian Affairs when it was contracted to help recruit law enforcement for Indian Country, according to the 2012 report.
The government "received no benefit when they awarded a recruitment services contract to NNALEA, thus wasting almost $1 million," the report states.
Edwards said in a statement that the NNALEA met and exceeded its obligations in the contract.
The Redskins didn't immediately return a message seeking comment about the sponsorship cancellation.
Follow Brent Schrotenboer on Twitter @Schrotenboer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org