An autistic American Indian says an official with President Barack Obama’s White House assaulted him for wearing a Redskins shirt during an October 2015 trip to Washington, D.C. The man says he plans to sue the Obama White House official for the cost of his medical bills to treat injuries he sustained during an alleged beating over a Redskins shirt.
Barrett Dahl, an Oklahoma college student, was wearing a Redskins shirt to visit the White House for a powwow last October when William Mendoza, the executive director of the White House Initiative of American Indian and Alaska Native Education, allegedly assaulted the tourist and mocked him for his disability.
“He comes to me and says you’re a ‘weetard’ for wearing a Redskins shirt,” Dahl, who is autistic, said. “He says where are you from that you’re such a ‘weetard,’ you don’t understand that you’re offending me?”
The Washington Redskins’s team name has stirred controversy, as some claim it’s offensive to Native Americans. However, an overwhelming majority of Native Americans — 9 out of 10, in fact — are not offended by the name, according to a recent Washington Post poll.
Dahl, who is a fan of the NFL team, said he wore the apparel to the White House out of a sense of cultural pride, the Daily Mail reports.
Mendoza disputes Dahl’s account of the incident, claiming the Oklahoma man threw the first punch after he politely asked Dahl to explain a phrase “INJUN PIMP” reportedly printed on the back of his shirt.
According to News 9, Mendoza wrote the following in his notes of the encounter:
Upon exiting the escalator, I ran into Barry again, coming around the corner. I reached out my hand and said, ‘My apologies for offending you.’ He was holding a cup in his hand, at which point, he threw its contents that was the smell of coffee and was hot, but not scalding. He then punched me in the face (right cheek). I tried to grab him but we both fell.
Dahl says his shirt read “INJUN PLAYER,” not “INJUN PIMP,” and that the White House official instigated the fight after following him to the escalator to assault him after spitting in the tourist’s face.
The altercation left Dahl with a broken arm, busted teeth, a black eye, and bruising on his chest. The medical bills from the resulting injuries have totaled over $40,000, which Dahl says has caused his family financial hardship.
“What bothers me the most about this, first off, we’ve lost everything we have and he’s lost nothing,” Dahl said. “He’s kept his job, his home, his family.”
Mendoza was appointed to his current political post by President Barack Obama in December of 2011. The White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education is funded by and housed within the U.S Department of Education.
The office of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who sits on a Senate committee tasked with oversight of federal education policy, did not respond to repeated requests for comment about whether it’s appropriate for an Obama White House official to mock or assault an autistic Native American man for wearing a sports jersey.