In April, Cooperstown Central School voted to change its moniker from Redskins, prompting a wave of headlines about the use of the term in the National Football League.
In May, after the decision was made, Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter presented a $10,000 check to the district for new athletic uniforms. Halbritter praised the students who pushed to oust the district’s longtime nickname by calling their efforts “thoughtful,” “inclusive,” “courteous” and “respectful.”
The Oneidas have been vocal opponents of the Redskins nickname in the NFL and for high school teams. Now, the American Indian tribe has launched a radio ad campaign pressing for the Washington Redskins to shed their name that is often criticized as offensive.
The first ad was scheduled to air on radio stations in Washington before the team’s season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. In the ad, 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.”
In the initial spots, National Football League’s Commissioner Roger Goodell is praised for recently condemning Eagles’ player Riley Cooper’s use of a racial slur. The ad then asks Goodell to do the right thing and join the campaign to stop the Washington team from using Redskins as a mascot and team name.
The ads launched as Washington faces 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.
The ad campaign will run for the entire NFL season. Ads are expected to 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 www.changethemascot.org.
“As a proud sponsor of the NFL, we are concerned that the NFL’s continued use of such an offensive term is undermining its position as a unifying force in America,” Halbritter said in a media release. “America is a society that values mutual respect. Using a slur and making a mascot out of our indigenous culture has no place in such a society. 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.”
The ads can be heard at www.changethemascot.org.