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Notah Begay blasts Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s new charity as a PR ‘gimmick’

Notah Begay III says Daniel Snyder’s new Washington Redskins foundation is a public relations maneuver designed to deflect criticism over the racial slur that is the owner’s NFL team’s name.

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Scott Halleran

Notah Begay III called Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s new philanthropy a public relations smokescreen designed to divert attention away from the controversy surrounding his NFL team’s racist name.

Snyder’s Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, launched last month, is "more of a gimmick" than an honest attempt to assist Native Americans, Begay, a four-time PGA Tour winner, analyst for NBC and Golf Channel, and Tiger Woods' good friend, told USAToday on Tuesday.

Begay said Snyder’s OAF was an effort "to try to offset some of the public disdain for the name of his football team."

The National Congress of American Indians, a staunch advocate of a name change for the squad that QB Robert Griffin III helms, supported Begay’s view.

"If Dan Snyder thinks it is acceptable for a billionaire to market, promote and profit off of a dictionary defined racial slur, then he's living in an alternate universe," Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative, said in a statement. "Here's a reality check: The longer [Snyder] insists on slurring Native Americans, the more damage he will keep doing to Native American communities."

During a ceremony on Tuesday showcasing his team’s $100,000 donation toward a high school athletic field in a northern Virginia suburb of Washington, Snyder responded to Begay and others angered by the owner’s refusal to adopt a team moniker that does not offend a group of people.

"I wrote a letter to the fans and it speaks for itself," Snyder said about the message he delivered to announce his foundation. "It tells you we did our homework, unlike a lot of people, and we understand the issues out there. We're not an issue. The real issues are real-life issues, real-life needs, and it's time for people to focus on reality."

Begay, whose Notah Begay III Foundation was slated to receive a national award on Wednesday, did not buy Snyder’s bogus claims.

"The Washington football team's front office has tried to make the issue about them and it's really not about them. It's about, unfortunately, the NFL and its owners and its corporate partners condoning use of that word," said Begay, who is Navajo, Isleta, and San Felipe Pueblo. "I don't think if a similar racially offensive word was used for the Hispanic, African American or Jewish communities that it would be tolerated. But because the American Indian people historically have not had much political leverage, or because we don't represent a great amount of buying power from a retail standpoint, we don't get the same level of treatment that everyone else in this country gets."

Begay pulled his foundation’s support of a charity golf tourney in Arizona this month after he discovered OAF was a title sponsor, according to USAToday.

"I find it underhanded and despicable that the Washington football team would co-opt this event," Crystal Echo Hawk, NB3 Foundation executive director, told USAToday earlier this month. "As soon as we found out about their involvement we withdrew our support."

After learning of OAF’s participation in the tournament, the nonprofit National Indian Gaming Association, which has 184 Indian nations as members, halted its sponsorship of the event earlier this month as well, according to the publication.

"It's a blatant attempt to try to buy out the issue," gaming association chair Ernest Stevens told USAToday.

On Wednesday, the NB3 Foundation and the Philadelphia Eagles youth Partnership were to receive the Legacy Award and $10,000 each from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for excellence in sports philanthropy.