By Rob Capriccioso
“No matter what the history of something is, if it is offending people, then it’s time to change it,” said Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO of Nation Enterprises, parent company of Indian Country Today Media Network, in his introductory remarks. “It’s a dictionary-defined offensive term.”
Held at the Ritz Carlton in Georgetown, the event featured many more American Indian leaders and citizens explaining that the term is a racial slur that does not honor anyone. There was also a psychologist detailing the harmful emotional social and psychological effects of such mascots on both Indian and non-Indian children (backed up by recent scientific studies); there was a Smithsonian director discussing the negative historical and contemporary roots of the word; there were high school youth who had taken on similarly offensive school names in their school districts and gotten them removed; and there were congressional legislators, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-Washington, D.C.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), working their political pathways to drive change.
But there was no Daniel Snyder, owner of the Redskins since 1999 who made news in May when he said he would “never” change the team’s name, despite the growing criticism of it. And there was no Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League, who spotlighted Snyder’s position when he said on a radio program in September, “[I]f we are offending one person, we need to be listening and making sure that we’re doing the right things to try to address that.”
Halbritter said at the event that he was disappointed that no NFL representatives chose to attend. He said they had been invited, and the symposium was held in D.C. to coincide with the NFL’s fall meeting in the city specifically to make it easier for NFL representatives to be there. He also noted that his tribe has been a sponsor of the Buffalo Bills, and it supports the football league financially as a business partner.
“We made it as convenient as possible for them to attend, but no one is attending,” said Halbritter, whose tribal nation is currently carrying out a large publicity campaign, called "Change the Mascot,” which is featuring radio ads in D.C. and other NFL cities that explain why the name offends so many Native Americans.
By Mark Weiner
One man in the audience wore a T-shirt with a message printed on the back, "I'm a Cherokee, not a Redskin." A backdrop behind the panelists displayed images of the Washington Redskins logo with the international "no" signed stamped across the front.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, was among those at the symposium who said that the use of the Washington Redskins nickname should no longer be debatable.
"Native Americans are not mascots or caricatures to be exploited for profit," McCollum said. "There is no dignity or respect for exploitation."
McCollum and others who spoke at the symposium refuted polls cited by the Redskins that show the public and Native Americans are not offended by the nickname.
"The hired PR folks who are now defending Mr. Snyder's football team are citing outdated polls and data," she said.
By Theresa Vargas and Mark Maske
“I can think of no argument for retaining a name that directly insults Americans and especially our first Americans,” said Holmes Norton, speaking as a third-generation Washingtonian.
She said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell showed leadership last month when he stepped back from his earlier defense of the team’s name and said, “If one person’s offended, we have to listen.”
Nevertheless, no formal discussion of the Washington Redskins’ name is expected among NFL owners who are gathering at another Ritz-Carlton in Washington for a one-day meeting Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
They said they sense little or no sentiment within the league to urge Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to make a change.
NFL officials were invited to the Native American symposium, but none attended the event, Halbritter said. But he said he was encouraged that Goodell had instructed Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s senior vice president for labor policy and government affairs, to schedule a meeting. The sit-down is scheduled for Nov. 22 at the league’s offices, but two sources said it could be held sooner.
The November-or-sooner meeting between NFL officials and the Oneida is the real news coming out of the symposium. Is it a real sign of the NFL's shifting position, or a gimmick to placate protesters by pretending to take them seriously?
Bell: Snyder can't keep dodging Native American meeting
By Jarrett Bell
But when Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president of labor policy and government affairs, wrote to Oneida Nation Homelands chief operating officer Peter Carmen on Friday, he wanted to meet sooner than a previously scheduled Nov. 22 date at NFL headquarters.
That seems like a recognition by the NFL that the issue is more than an annoyance as pressure and momentum mount. Over the weekend, President Obama advocated more dialogue, which added fuel to the "Change the Mascot" campaign.
Now, if somebody can just make sure Snyder is part of the dialogue.
By Mike Florio
“If” remains the key word. There are no plans for such an effort, and some owners will be reluctant to do anything that would set a potential precedent regarding the twisting of arms to get teams to do what the league wants them to do.
Meanwhile, Peter King of TheMMQB.com reported during Football Night in America that Snyder remains steadfast in his position that the name will never change.
He may never change the team’s name, but he won’t own the team indefinitely. At some point, the team will be owned by someone who hasn’t painted himself (or herself) into a corner on the issue.
And it could be that the next owner will be approved only with a wink-nod understanding that the first order of business will be to change the name.
As I said to my pal, the NFL's best bet would be to say nothing and hope the controversy fades. There's no way this debate ends if Snyder, Goodell, the NFL, and their apologists keep trying to spin it away.