Autistic Native American Says White House Official Assaulted Him for Wearing Redskins Shirt

August 18, 2016

An autistic, Native American college student from Oklahoma is accusing a White House official of assaulting and spitting on him during a visit to the nation’s capital because he wore clothing supporting the Washington Redskins, News 9 reports.

Barrett Dahl, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, traveled to Washington, D.C. last October for a four-day conference with Fort Lewis College, according to the Durango Herald. While Dahl was in the area, he attended an event sponsored by the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science. Dahl, a member of the Sac and Fox tribe of Oklahoma, is also an avid fan of the Washington Redskins, so he wore his Redskins shirt to the event.

Dahl and his family believe the Redskins logo was made to honor Native Americans. The Redskins shirt drew criticism, however, from a White House official who was attending the same event in a personal capacity. William Mendoza, who serves as the executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, approached Dahl to confront him about his Redskins shirt. Mendoza, an Oglala-Sicangu Lakota, has been an outspoken critic of Native Americans being characterized on sports logos, including the Redskins.

The Durango Herald reports:

"He comes to me, calls me a ‘weetard’ and tells me I am a ‘stupid weetard’ for not understanding that my Redskins shirt is offending him," Dahl wrote. "He continues to call me an ‘uneducated weetard’ and I tell him to leave me alone. He then spits in my face. I immediately leave the ballroom to GET THE POLICE."

Mendoza said he had no idea Dahl had autism or is Native American, and he denied spitting at him.

"There was nothing that I had in my mind that said this could be a special-needs adult learner of any kind or anybody with a disability," he said. "He looked like a man who was being very overt in his attire, and the choice of what he decided to print on the back of his shirt also added a layer."

Following the verbal altercation, the situation turned physical, according to accounts from both men. Mendoza said that Dahl stood up and shoved him with his shoulder, causing him to lose his balance. Mendoza said that he then tried to diffuse the situation later, but Dahl threw a cup of coffee in his face. Dahl maintains that Mendoza attacked him by the escalators and tried to block his punches.

Both men suffered injuries as a result of the altercation. While both of them declined to go to the hospital, they would later seek medical attention.

Barrett Dahl said he had fractures to his right forearm, broken teeth, and a black eye. He has undergone three surgeries and has seven screws and two plates in his wrist, his father said. He needed a scribe to help him finish the fall and spring semesters.

Barrett Dahl said he has limited use of his right arm: He can no longer hold a pencil, drive a car, lift weights, or bounce a basketball.

"The doctors say it will never be possible," Barret wrote in his email to the Herald.

Mendoza told the Herald that he had injured his wrist and knee, in addition to a scratch on his face, but he did not t have any fractures.

Dahl and his family accumulated thousands of dollars in medical bills as a result of the altercation. Due to the nature of the altercation, Dahl’s father hired legal representation and will pursue a civil case against Mendoza for the injuries that he allegedly caused to his son.

Mendoza’s attorney, Mark Zaid, said Mendoza was unavailable to comment due to current travels. Zaid did say, however, that Mendoza was interested in suing Dahl for defamation.