Change the Mascot Leaders Call on NFL Players Association Executive Director Candidates to Stand Against D.C. Team’s R-Word Mascot

By Oneida Nation News, Oneida Nation Enterprises- Public Affairs Office

CTM4Logo_change the mascotWith elections coming soon for the position of Executive Director of the NFL Player Association (NFLPA), Change the Mascot campaign leaders have issued a letter to all of the candidates urging them to take a stand against the racist name of the Washington NFL team. The letter, issued by the National Congress of American Indians, the United South and Eastern Tribes, and the Oneida Indian Nation, cites current Executive Director DeMaurice Smith’s recent comments opposing the name. It also encourages the candidates to make public statements on the subject and to pledge to put forward a resolution to NFLPA members proposing that the organization join the Change the Mascot campaign and demand that the league change the name.

The letter notes how sports, and particularly beloved athletes, have unique power in shaping today’s culture. Correspondingly, it calls upon the future NFLPA Executive Director to use his position by being an importance voice for equality.

“Athletes are in a unique position to take up the cause of social justice – especially on an issue like this that is so intertwined with professional sports. In the spirit of solidarity that the NFLPA so often promotes, we hope you will stand with us in this critical campaign,” states the letter.

The letter also cites how continued use of the R-word name is an affront for current NFL players on both a moral level by forcing them to wear and promote the iconography of the slur, and on an economical level by potentially reducing revenues.

The Change the Mascot letter was sent to Executive Director DeMaurice Smith who is running for re-election, as well as other candidates Jim Acho, Jason Belser, Sean Gilbert, Robert Griffith, Rob London, Arthur McAfee, Andrew Smith and John Stufflebeam.

The election for NFLPA Executive Director is scheduled for March 15.

Change the Mascot is a grassroots campaign that works to educate the public about the damaging effects on Native Americans arising from the continued use of the R-word. This civil and human rights movement has helped reshape the debate surrounding the Washington team’s name and brought the issue to the forefront of social consciousness. Since its launch last season, Change the Mascot has garnered support from a diverse coalition of prominent advocates including elected officials from both parties, Native American tribes, sports icons, leading journalists and news publications, civil and human rights organizations and religious leaders.

The full text of the letter to the candidates is included below and can be found on the Change the Mascot website here.

Dear NFLPA Executive Director Candidate,

From Jesse Owens to Jackie Robinson to Muhammad Ali, athletes hold a special leadership position in history’s crusades for social justice. That has never been truer than it is today: as sports have become such an integral part of American culture, athletes have unique power to shape that culture for the better and to be a voice for the cause of equality.

The National Football League Players Association has been one of the organizations that has consistently marshaled that power for this righteous cause, standing in solidarity with others, just as civil rights groups have stood with the union. Because you are a candidate to become the next executive director of this hallowed organization, we are writing to you with a critical request: we are asking that you pledge that, if elected, you will put a resolution forward to NFLPA members allowing them to vote to have the organization formally join our Change the Mascot Campaign.

Our campaign’s goal is simple: we want the NFL to use its power to finally stop the Washington franchise from promoting a dictionary-defined racial slur as its name. This is a word screamed at Native Americans as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands — and it was a name originally given to the team by one of America’s most infamous segregationists, George Preston Marshall. As public health organizations have attested, this name has significant negative effects on Native Americans: every Sunday, the promotion of this name tells millions of Americans it is acceptable to denigrate native peoples on the basis of their alleged skin color.

Just as the NFL would never dare allow any other racial slur to brand one of its teams, it should not allow this name to continue to be promoted for the team that represents the nation’s capital. That is a common sense view understood by current professional football players including Richard Sherman and Champ Bailey; by former stars such as Terry Bradshaw, Calvin Hill and Mark Schlereth; and by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the organization that works with the league to promote civil rights. They have all spoken out against the continued use of the team’s current name, as have major Native American organizations, public health organizations, religious leaders, sports media icons, governors, Members of Congress from both parties and the President of the United States.

For current NFL players, this name is an affront on two levels.

Morally, it is unacceptable for the league to continue forcing athletes to wear uniforms that publicly promote the iconography of a racial slur.

Economically, the continued use of the name potentially reduces revenues for players. According to an Emory University study of college teams, “The shift away from a Native American mascot yields positive financial returns.” With the NFLPA generating some of its revenues through merchandise sales, continuing to use the Washington team’s name forsakes the same positive financial returns that players could reap if the name were changed.

Last year, the current NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith issued a statement to The Washington Post correctly noting that the Washington team’s name conveys “racial insensitivity” and declared that “I do not believe anyone should inflict pain, embarrass or insult, especially given the racial insensitivity” of the team’s name.

We applaud Mr. Smith for making such a bold statement, and we are asking that all current candidates for NFLPA executive director make similar public statements. But we are also asking that the candidates take it a step further by pledging to have the full membership of the NFLPA vote on a formal resolution to join the Change the Mascot campaign and to demand that the league change the team’s name.

As noted at the beginning of this letter, athletes are in a unique position to take up the cause of social justice – especially on an issue like this that is so intertwined with professional sports. In the spirit of solidarity that the NFLPA so often promotes, we hope you will stand with us in this critical campaign.

Oneida Indian Nation and the National Congress of American Indians Statement on Resignation of Washington NFL Team Executive Hired to Defend the R-Word Racial Epithet

The Oneida Indian Nation and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), which lead the national Change the Mascot campaign, responded today to reports that the blogger hired just two weeks ago to defend the Washington NFL team’s use of a racial slur is resigning.*

Oneida Nation Homelands, NY (PRWEB) July 08, 2014

Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and NCAI Executive Director Jackie Pata said in response to this latest development*:

“The growing opposition to the team’s name is about far more than any one person—it is a civil rights and human rights issue and it is time for the team and the NFL to stand on the right side of history and change the mascot.

“In trying to continue profiting off of a racial slur, Washington team officials have attempted to assemble a political attack machine, but that has only underscored their insensitivity. Dan Snyder selected a person who financially harmed Native Americans to run a foundation to defend his team’s name.** Then Snyder hired a blogger to defend the name, even though that person previously publicly insulted Native Americans and also references the team’s name in a list of racial slurs.*** The fundamental lesson in each of those humiliating episodes should be obvious: there is simply no way to justify promoting, marketing and profiting off of a dictionary-defined racial slur.

“The only tenable solution for the team is to recognize that the R-word racial epithet is deeply offensive to Native Americans, to quit pretending that this word somehow honors them, and to stop using this slur. If Dan Snyder wants to stop embarrassing himself, his team, its fan base and the NFL, then he should approach the issue of the name from an honest and genuine standpoint.”

*Blogger hired to defend Redskins name resigns after two weeks, 7.8.14,
**Redskins foundation head drew criticism in I.G. report, 3.17.14,
***Washington’s blogger-turned-lobbyist faces scrutiny, 7.8.14,

Oneida Indian Nation Responds to Attempts by Washington’s NFL Team to Discredit its Leadership over Opposition to the R-Word


Press Release: Newswire

The Oneida Indian Nation responded today to a report suggesting that Washington’s NFL team and its supporters have attempted to discredit opponents of their offensive mascot only to be told by other Native American leaders that the name should change. Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation Representative and the leader of the Change the Mascot movement, has come under personal attack for publicly urging the team to drop a name which is a dictionary-defined racial slur.

“In his desire to defend a name given to his team by an avowed segregationist, Dan Snyder can continue to try to attack me personally, but his strategy will not work because this is far bigger and more important than any one person or group,” Halbritter said. “This is an issue that underscores what it means to treat people with respect and to stop causing them pain rather than continuing to insult them with a racist epithet. This is a serious moral, human rights and civil rights issue – and the team’s behavior continues to have serious negative consequences for Native Americans,” Halbritter added.

Sid Hill, the spiritual leader of the Six Nations, recently received a call from a representative of the Washington team which “felt like they were looking for something, that they wanted me to discredit Ray, and I wasn’t going to go there.” Hill said: “The backlash Ray’s received is kind of scary…it’s like they’re trying to discredit the witness.”*

In an interview with a journalist from The Syracuse Post-Standard, Hill underscored his view that the R–word does not honor Native Americans, as the team has claimed. The term, he said, is a taunt and an insult that if directed toward a Native American on their territory would be seen by the target of the slur as an attempt to inflict hurt.*

“It is hardly surprising that the team marketing a racial slur against Native Americans is evidently working to further denigrate Native Americans with personal attacks,” said Oneida Indian Nation Vice President for Communications Joel Barkin. “For all their rhetoric about respect, the team officials’ ugly tactics prove that they lack real respect for Native Americans.”

*At Onondaga, spiritual leader of the Six Nations agrees: Time for Washington to retire ‘Redskins’, 3/16/14,

Read the full story at

Breaking News: D.C. Radio Stations Won’t Run Anti-Mascot Ad

Source: ICTMN

Two Washington, D.C., radio stations have silenced the Oneida Indian Nation.

According to a news release, CBS stations WJFK and WPGC will not air the Nation’s new radio ad, called “Legacy,” which is part of the “Change the Mascot” campaign. A representative from CBS said that the increased discussion around the Washington football team’s name was the reason for pulling the ad.

“Based on the amount of on-air debate, adding paid commercials from one side is not something that we think is beneficial for this discussion and for our audience,” Steve Swenson, senior vice president of CBS Radio Washington wrote in an e-mail that was provided by the Oneida Nation to The Washington Post.

“It is unfortunate and un-American that the station permits the team to slander Native Americans on the public airwaves with the use of the r-word, but doesn’t permit Native Americans to use the same airwaves to object to the use of a racial slur,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in a news release. “We will not be silent mascots. This issue is not going away, as evidenced by the growing and diverse support this effort gains by the day.”

WJFK or 106.7 The Fan is the same radio station that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell used to say that it was important to “listen” to fans of differing points of view about whether the team’s name was offensive. The station bills itself as an “unbiased” and “unfiltered” station for D.C. sports fans that “never holds back.”

The ad, that was scheduled to run this weekend, queried the history of the Redskins name saying that the original owner, Preston Marshall, chose to use a racial slur as the team’s name. The ad also questioned what legacy Snyder would leave.

“By changing his team’s name Mr. Snyder can create a better historical legacy for himself — one of tolerance and mutual respect, not of racial epithets,” Halbritter says in the ad. “Native Americans do not want their people to be hurt by such painful epithets. We just want to be treated as what we all are: Americans.”

“The issue has been heavily debated on WJFK where we can provide a good balance of discussion, opinions and context to the issue through our programming,” Swenson said by e-mail to The Post. “Our audience has reacted positively to that presentation, and we will continue to approach the situation keeping in-line with our audiences’ expectations.”



Oneida Indian Nation plans symposium on ‘Washington Redskins’ name at NFL meeting hotel


In its latest effort to get the Washington Redskins to change their name, the Oneida Indian Nation of upstate New York will hold a symposium at the same hotel where NFL will meet Monday.


October 4, 2013

The Oneida Indian Nation says the Washington Redskins’s name is a racial epithet.

The Oneida Indian Nation of upstate New York said Thursday it will take an in-your-face approach in its ongoing battle to get the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name.

The tribe, which says the name is a racial epithet, will host a symposium on the topic Monday at the same Washington hotel where the National Football League is holding its fall meeting, beginning the next day.

Read more:

Opponents of Racist D.C. Mascot to Hold Event at NFL Fall Meeting

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

The Oneida Indian Nation is taking its ‘Change the Mascot’ campaign a step further.

On Monday, October 7th, the Nation plans to convene in Washington, D.C. to hold a public conference calling on the NFL and its teams to end the use of the slur, Redskins.

The conference, which will be held in the Ritz Carlton, in the same hotel as the NFL’s Fall Meeting, is open to the public and press.

This conference comes just weeks after the Nation broadcast its “Change the Mascot” radio advertisements, and months after students at Cooperstown Central School District in Cooperstown, New York, made national news by voting to change their teams’ name from ‘Redskins’ to the ‘Hawkeyes.’

“As proud sponsors of the NFL, we are encouraged by how many leaders are standing up, speaking out and joining the grassroots effort to get the Washington team to do the right thing and change its name,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter in an earlier news release.

The Nation, along with U.S. Lawmakers: Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota), and special guests hope to spur a discussion that will lead to change.

“We should be treated as what we are: Americans,” Halbritter said.



Oneida Nation launching ad campaign against use of racial slur

Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File/Associated Press - FILE - In this Aug. 4, 2009, file photo, Washington Redskins helmets are displayed on the field during NFL football training camp at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va. The Oneida Indian Nation tribe in upstate New York said Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, it will launch a radio ad campaign pressing for the Washington Redskins to get rid of a nickname that is often criticized as offensive.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File/Associated Press – FILE – In this Aug. 4, 2009, file photo, Washington Redskins helmets are displayed on the field during NFL football training camp at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va. The Oneida Indian Nation tribe in upstate New York said Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, it will launch a radio ad campaign pressing for the Washington Redskins to get rid of a nickname that is often criticized as offensive.



By Associated Press, Updated: Thursday, September 5, 5:27 AM

ALBANY, N.Y. — An American Indian tribe in upstate New York said Thursday it will launch a radio ad campaign pressing for the Washington Redskins to shed a name often criticized as offensive.

The Oneida Indian Nation said the first ad will run on radio stations in Washington before the team hosts the Philadelphia Eagles in its season opener Monday night. In the ad, Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell should “stand up to bigotry” by denouncing “the racial slur” in the team’s name.

“We do not deserve to be called redskins,” the Oneida leader says in the ad. “We deserve to be treated as what we are — Americans.”

The radio ad said Goodell had rightly been critical this summer after an Eagles wide receiver was caught on video making a racial slur against African-Americans.

The ads launch as the Washington Redskins this year face a fresh barrage of criticism over their nickname, with local leaders and pundits calling for a name change. In May, 10 members of Congress sent letters to Redskins owner Dan Snyder and Goodell urging the team to change the name.

Snyder has vowed to never change the name.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy, in an email to The Associated Press, said they “respect that reasonable people may have differing views.”

“The name from its origin has always intended to be positive and has always been used by the team in a highly respectful manner,” McCarthy wrote.

There was no immediate response from the Redskins.

The Oneidas have been vocal opponents of the Redskins nickname — be it for NFL or high school teams. The tribe, which runs a casino and resort in central New York, this year gave $10,000 toward new jerseys to an area high school that changed its nickname from the Redskins to the Hawkeyes.

The Oneida said the first ad will run Sunday and Monday on several stations in Washington. Subsequent ads will run in Washington during home games and in the cities hosting the team when it is away. A spokesman for the Oneidas would not say how much the campaign would cost beyond “multiple thousands.”

Halbritter said that fans also are being urged to lobby the NFL in support of the name change at , a website that debuted Thursday.

“We believe that with the help of our fellow professional football fans, we can get the NFL to realize the error of its ways and make a very simple change,” Halbritter said in a prepared statement.

Positive Reactions to Cooperstown Central Changing School Mascot


National Public Radio host Michel Martin talked with Ray Halbritter, of the Oneida Nation, about the gesture to pay for schools uniforms after the decision to change the “Redskins” name at Cooperstown Central School.  Listen here



February 25, 2013

The message that calling sports teams “Redskins” isn’t right seems to be getting across in some circles and, perhaps most important, to the younger generation.

Some, including Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, still say the derogatory term is fine. Though others say his argument, that it’s all right to use because there are some 70 high schools in 25 states that use the name, is weak.

In her February 13 Washington Post column titled, “On Washington Redskins’ name, it’s time the grown-ups talk sense into Daniel Snyder,” Sally Jenkins was one of them.

“If you’ve long suspected that football is not a measure of intellect…a series of prominently displayed pseudo-articles defend the club’s use of a racial slur as a mascot on the grounds that lots of high schools are nicknamed ‘Redskins’ too — so it must be okay,” she says. “Which we can only take to mean that pretty soon owner Daniel Snyder will be skipping class to build a potato gun.”


But Snyder couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, recent events fly in the face of his argument. Like at Cooperstown Central School, when in early February, the students there decided they no longer wanted to be known as the Redskins.cooperstown-central-school

When Cooperstown students stood up, national news media noticed. Their decision to get rid of the nickname was reported by The Associated Press, ESPN, Fox Sports, the Wall Street Journal and Indian Country Today Media Network.

“There were several students who came forward to the superintendent and myself,” Cooperstown Board of Education President Dr. David Borgstrom told ICTMN. “They told us how uncomfortable they felt about it and we made a commitment to educate the students about cultural diversity. When they brought it forward there wasn’t really any other response we could give them than, ‘You’re right.’”

Borgstrom said he’s incredibly proud of the students for coming forward and that the most important thing he has learned in this name-change process is just how socially aware the younger generation is and that they recognize the role they can play in making changes.

The older generations, especially alumni from schools that use the mascots under scrutiny, have been harder to change.

This has been the case in Cooperstown as well. Borgstrom said that when there was heated debate over the mascot changing at a board meeting, the students stood their ground. The next board of education meeting is scheduled for March 6. That’s when the official vote on whether to keep or remove the Redskins mascot will take place.

“What we have been discussing here has been linked to the football team in Washington and I think it has put more pressure on them and the Cleveland baseball team…. If a few students coming forward in Cooperstown paves the way for change elsewhere, wouldn’t that be wonderful,” Borgstrom said. “The way this is going it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.”


But changing monikers is going to cost money. Money that some schools just don’t have. That’s why when the Oneida Indian Nation heard about the students in Cooperstown, it offered to pay for the school’s new uniforms once a new nickname is chosen. Borgstrom couldn’t give a definite cost for new uniforms, but estimated it will cost between $5,000 and $7,000 to make the change.ONEIDA_NATION_LOGO

“You have announced a standard that recognizes that mascots which are known to dehumanize and disrespect any race of mankind have no place in our schools, or our great country,” wrote Oneida Nation Representative and CEO Ray Halbritter in a letter to the Cooperstown students. “We understand that your courageous decision also comes with a financial consequence and, unfortunately, potential backlash from those who somehow claim that ethnic stereotyping is a victimless crime.”

By providing monetary help, the Oneida Nation has taken one worry off the school board’s plate.

“I think it’s a wonderful gesture on the part of the Oneida Nation. It speaks to the importance of it to them,” Borgstrom said.

This could mean there are other tribal nations out there willing to help other schools that want to take the plunge and get rid of their Native mascots or logos.

That’s why in an upcoming issue of This Week From Indian Country Today, there will be a call to action to establish a fund to help other schools. The idea is to make students feel empowered, not hampered when thinking about making the decision to leave behind dehumanizing terms like “redskins.” Offering donations will be a way to help students understand they have help with this journey and won’t have to take money away from other programs their schools offer.