Archive for the ‘Ray Halbritter’ Category

R-wordredskins

It’s one of the NFL’s bigger rivalries, the Cowboys vs. the Redskins. And intentional or not, Sunday’s game occurs during Columbus Day weekend, deepening the meaning of a fresh conflict about whether “Redskins” slurs Indians, their leaders say.

More than 500 years after Christopher Columbus’ encounter with the natives of the Americas, any enduring uneasiness between Indians and mainstream society is exemplified by the controversy over the Washington Redskins name, which took a new turn last week when President Obama spoke of “legitimate concerns” that the mascot is racist, some Indian leaders say.

Team owners strongly dispute any racism behind the mascot and won’t change it, saying the Redskins name honors “where we came from, who we are.”

But many Native Americans contend it’s incredulous that a major sports team in the nation’s capital fails to see the word’s offensiveness, especially in a game Sunday whose rival mascots conjure up the bygone real bloodshed between cowboys and Indians. Some news outlets and sports writers agree and aren’t printing “Redskin” in their stories about the NFL team.

“After 500 years, it’s pretty unbelievable that this issue is at the forefront right now,” said Jason Begay, a Navajo who’s an assistant professor and director of the Native American Journalism Project at the University of Montana. “Even in the last 50 years (of the civil rights movement), we learned so much. It’s just ridiculous that this is an issue.”

The NFL team disagrees. In response, the Oneida Indian Nation of New York began airing this weekend a radio ad protesting the Redskins mascot in the Dallas Cowboys’ hometown. The ad, entitled “Bipartisan,” quotes how Obama, a Democrat, and Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican leader in the House, disapprove of the Redskins name.

Washington team owner Dan Snyder stepped up his defense of the moniker this month. Last spring, he told USA Today he will “never” change the name.

“Our fans sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ in celebration at every Redskins game. They speak proudly of ‘Redskins Nation’ in honor of a sports team they love,” Snyder wrote in a letter to fans.

“After 81 years, the team name ‘Redskins’ continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come,” he continued.

“I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name. But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too,” Snyder said, citing several polls conducted in recent years that show that a majority of people do not want the name changed.

But American Indians like Begay worry about the normalization of an epithet. He’s also vice president of the Native American Journalists Association, which launched last month a media resource page on its website about offensive Native American mascots in U.S. sports.

“We’re on the verge of laying back and letting this name run rampant when we can actually make a difference, which is what we all should be striving for,” Begay said. “I’m glad to see there are so many organizations like NAJA and the (U.S.) President who are standing against it.”

Obama said last week that if he were the team’s owner, he would “think about changing it,” referring to the mascot.

Obama added that “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things.” The ad also airs a quote by Cole saying “the name is just simply inappropriate. It is offensive to a lot of people.”

The political leaders’ remarks are repeated in the radio ad advanced by the Oneida Indian Nation and its leader Ray Halbritter, who’s also CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, which operates a casino and other businesses.

Halbritter acknowledged his tribe’s “Change the Mascot” campaign faces an uphill struggle. He refers to the mascot as “the R-word,” without explicitly stating it.

“Well, history is littered with people who have vowed never to change something — slavery, immigration, women’s rights — so we think one thing that’s really great about this country is when many people speak out, change can happen,” Halbritter said.

When asked about other team mascots such as the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Blackhawks, Halbritter cited how “redskin” is defined in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged online dictionary as “usually offensive.”

“Let’s be clear. The name, the R word, is defined in the dictionary as an offensive term. It’s a racial epithet. It’s a racial slur. I think there is a broader discussion to be had about using mascots generally and the damage it does to people and their self-identity. But certainly there’s no gray area on this issue,” he said.

Halbritter asserted the word was born out of hatred — and referred to the long, ugly history between the native people of the Americas and the colonizers from Europe who followed Columbus.

“Its origin is hated, use is hated, it was the name our people — that was used against our people when we were forced off our lands at gunpoint. It was a name that was used when our children were forced out of our homes and into boarding schools,” he said. “So, it has a sordid history. And it’s time for a change, and we hope that — and what’s great is when enough people do recognize that, change will come.”

Fans are sharply divided about the issue.

A non-scientific online poll by the Washington Post shows 43% saying the team should change its name. But 57% say no, keep it. One respondent said the term is “a racist holdover from another day, a time when Indians were depicted as violent, ignorant, savages (by) whites (who largely were equally violent, ignorant and savage).”

But another respondent referred to political correctness and said: “The liberal PC society has gotten out of control, if you don’t like the teams name THEN DON’T WATCH THEM…!”

Redskins attorney Lanny Davis said the mascot is “not about race, not about disrespect.”

At games, he joins fans in singing “Hail to the Redskins” because “it’s a song of honor, it’s a song of tribute.”

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/12/us/redskins-controversy/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

redskins

President Barack Obama has weighed in. The pro football commissioner, has too. And now, a Native American tribe hopes recent attention to controversy surrounding the name of Washington’s National Football League team will provide the momentum needed to get it changed.

As NFL executives arrived in the nation’s capital for their annual fall meeting on Monday, the Oneida Indian Nation held a symposium in town to discuss their campaign to find a new name for the Washington Redskins after 80 years.

“We are asking the NFL to stop using a racial slur as the name of Washington’s football team,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter.

The “Change the Mascot” campaign launched last month with a string of radio ads airing in Washington and cities where the Redskins play this season.

The NFL executives were invited to the symposium, but Halbritter said none attended.

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Obama said if he were the owner of the Redskins and he knew the name was “offending a sizable group of people,” then he would “think about changing it.”

Halbritter began his remarks by thanking the president for weighing in.

“As the first sitting president to speak out against the Washington team name, President Obama’s comments over the weekend were nothing less than historic,” Halbritter said. “Isn’t that the real issue? No matter what the history of something is, if it’s offending people, then it’s time to change it. And this is a great time to do it.”

A Washington Post poll from June indicated that two-thirds of people who live in the D.C. metropolitan area didn’t want the Redskins to change their name, but more than eight in 10 said it wouldn’t make much of a difference to them if the name were changed.

Last month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who had previously expressed support for the team mascot, changed his tone on the “The LaVar Arrington Show with Chad Dukes” on 106.7 The Fan in Washington.

“I want all of us to go out and make sure we’re listening to our fans, listening to people of a different view, and making sure that we continue to do what’s right to make sure that team represents the strong tradition and history that it has for so many years,” Goodell said.

The NFL confirmed on Monday that it would meet with Oneida leaders.

But Redskins owner Dan Snyder has steadfastly refused to consider it, telling USA Today last spring that he will “NEVER” change his team’s name, even if they lose an ongoing federal trademark lawsuit that would stop the NFL team from exclusively profiting from the Redskins name.

In addition to the federal trademark lawsuit, a group of U.S. lawmakers drafted a bill last spring to cancel trademark registrations that use the name “Redskins.” Two of them, Democrats Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, and Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota attended Monday’s forum to voice their support.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/07/us/washington-redskins-name/index.html?hpt=hp_bn1