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October 17, 2013

Cooperstown girls go to Washington to speak on 'R word'

Oneida's 'Change the Mascot' event aimed at NFL team

Just when Emily Greenberg and Catherine Borgstrom thought the controversy over the nickname Redskins was over, the world pulled them back in.

“I thought this was over until a few weeks ago,” said Borgstrom. “Then one day my father told me to sit down because he wanted to talk to me. I thought, ‘what now?’”

But the “what now” turned into a positive experience for the two 17-year old Cooperstown Central School seniors. As leaders in the campaign to change the CCS mascot earlier this year, they were invited to Washington to be part of the Oneida Nation’s “Change the Mascot” symposium about the National Football League team on Oct. 7 at the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown.

“It was an exciting experience,” Greenberg said, “sort of overwhelming. We woke up at 7:30 in the morning to do an early interview with the local Fox affiliate. It was just a lot of cameras and a lot of press.”

“So many cameras,” Borgstrom added. “And a room filled with people.”

Borgstrom’s father, CCS Board of Education President David Borgstrom, sat on the panel with the two girls. Joining them were Oneida Nation president Ray Halbritter, two elected officials, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the president of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indians and Michael Friedman, a clinical psychologist, whose research has shown that names like Redskins and mascots like the one used by the Cleveland Indians are harmful.

“Dr. Friedman’s research is clear about how the word and the use of the mascots have had a negative effect on the (Indian) community,” Greenberg said. “It has an affect on self-esteem, suicide rates, divorce rates. Pretty much everything negative, it has an effect on.”

The two left the symposium even more certain that Cooperstown made the right decision.

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