Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder had a special guest join him at University of Phoenix Stadium as he watched his team lose to the Arizona Cardinals: Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation.

It would seem to be an awkward pairing, given Snyder’s intense refusal to change his team’s name despite widespread accusations of bigotry. Washington’s football nickname is considered a slur by many, and even defined by Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary as “usually offensive.”

Adding to the awkwardness is the fact that, back in April, the Navajo Nation Council voted to condemn the NFL team’s nickname.

But according to Sporting News, Shelly has a somewhat cozier history with the Washington Redskins owner:

…it should be pointed out that Shelly has met with Snyder on several occasions, and the Navajo Nation's radio station held a golf tournament which was sponsored by Snyder's "Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation." Such relationship which has drawn the ire of the Native American community.

The odd scene went viral on Twitter, with users posting screen caps and questioning how Shelly could be not just sitting next to Snyder, but also wearing a cap with the team’s logo.

The team’s self-funded “online community of passionate Washington Redskins fans,” intended to push back against opponents of the name, even got into the act on Twitter.

Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside the stadium in what has become an increasingly common scene for Washington’s football team.

But the team also had at least one Native American family on its side.

Snyder can expect an even more intense scene next month when his team plays the Minnesota Vikings at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium on November 2. In fact, the entire atmosphere will be quite unfriendly from the moment the team lands in the state, according to the Washington Post:

Next month, the Washington Redskins will fly to a state with a governor who has called their mascot racist, drive to a university with a president who wants their moniker changed, arrive at a stadium built with the help of a multimillion-dollar tribal donation and be greeted with what organizers hope is the biggest-ever protest of the team’s name.

The Post reports that “Native Americans from at least seven states” are expected to protest the Washington Redskins and owner Dan Snyder that weekend.

[photo credit: Keith Allison]