VERONA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — An Indian tribe from upstate New York that’s campaigning against the Washington Redskins’ nickname said Thursday it will hold a symposium about the issue at the same Washington hotel where the NFL is holding its fall meeting.
The Oneida Indian Nation’s symposium is scheduled for Monday, the day NFL owners start arriving for Tuesday’s meeting. Tribal leader Ray Halbritter said the meeting’s time and place provide a great opportunity to bring more understanding about the issue of why the Redskins name is considered offensive by many people.
He said NFL officials would be invited to attend.
“When one of the most valuable franchises in the NFL is using a racial epithet, how do you explain that to children?” Halbritter asked. “How do you explain how it makes you feel as a human being?”
There was no immediate comment from the NFL.
The Oneidas, who run a large casino resort in Verona in central New York, are pushing for a name change as the Washington Redskins face fresh waves of criticism over their nickname. The tribe this season launched a radio ad campaign in the Washington market and in cities that have hosted the team, pressing the franchise to change its name.
“We do not deserve to be called redskins,” Halbritter says in the ad. “We deserve to be treated as what we are — Americans.”
Redskins owner Dan Snyder has vowed to never change the name.
Halbritter, who said he was a fan of the team when he was an ironworker in Washington, said the issue is important to Indians in New York and elsewhere because the name is degrading and has devastating effects. Before they focused on the NFL, the Oneidas earlier this year gave $10,000 toward new jerseys to the high school in Cooperstown that changed its nickname from the Redskins to the Hawkeyes.
The president of Cooperstown’s board of education, David Borgstrom, is scheduled to attend the symposium with two students who helped lead the change. Borgstrom said he hoped his “small effort” on Monday helps the Oneidas in their ongoing campaign.
“We cannot allow the use of these cruel, injurious, hateful stereotypes to be continued to be used,” said U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, who plans to speak to the meeting either in person or from her home district, depending on Congress’ schedule.
In May, 10 members of Congress sent letters to Snyder and Commissioner Roger Goodell urging the team to change the name.
“Native Americans throughout the country consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African Americans or the ‘W-word’ among Latinos,” the U.S. representatives told Snyder in the letter.
Halbritter said symposium speakers also will include a psychological expert on the effects of discrimination on children and the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
“We are not going to go away,” Halbritter said. “This is not going to stop until the name is changed.”
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