Notah Begay III, Albuquerque’s famous golfer, said he became more aware of derogatory imagery of his Native American people while in college when he played for Stanford, where he said, “everyone got to speak their ideas.”
It was then he experienced negative feelings toward Washington’s nickname of the Redskins in the NFL.
Begay expressed relief and joy that Washington retired the moniker on Monday.
“It made me feel good that all the work that has been put in from people such as Suzan Harjo has finally come to a point that we affected change,” Begay said during a phone interview with the Journal Monday afternoon. “This was a collective effort from tribal leaders, to non-profits, to financial investment groups. It’s the hardest problem to solve because it involves so many components. To finally have the NFL and the ownership at Washington to recognize it was time to move in a new direction gave me a sense of satisfaction.”
Begay said he experienced racism during his career in a sport that he described as “predominately white.”
“The sport I played had a blatant racist viewpoint,” he said.
He said mostly every place that he played had “very little knowledge of Native American people and their culture,” he said.
He said he was once referred to as “the red Indian” in London media.
“Those sort of things, they don’t make you feel good,” he said. “That’s really what this whole thing is about. It’s about paving the way for Native American children. They’re facing the hardships of our time, poor health, poor opportunity, and the shortest lifespan of any race, so that tells you something. People will say, ‘Oh, it’s just a mascot and a picture of a Native American Indian.’ But it’s what these kids had to see every Sunday, which is a dictionary-defined racial slur. We want our kids to be seen as equals in whatever they pursue. Right now that is not the case, but this is the step in the right direction.”
Begay entered self-quarantine on Monday after arriving from the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship Tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Nevada.
The Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation, an organization that works to improve Native American children’s health, was selected as one of three non-profits to benefit from the charity of the $600,000 purse, and other donations.
“It put NB3 on a national platform,” Begay said. “It’s been a heck of a few days for the things I believe in.”