Oneida Leaders Push Washington Redskins for a Name-Change

Ray Halbritter, representative for the Oneida Indian Nation, speaks during an event yesterday.

Ray Halbritter, representative for the Oneida Indian Nation, speaks during an event yesterday.

Representatives from the Oneida Indian Nation, a New York Native American tribe, met with officials from the Washington Redskins football team yesterday in an effort to get the team to change its name–called “a harmful racial epithet”–and mascot.

Both, they insisted, were degrading and offensive.

“This name is not unifying. It is divisive, it is hateful, it is dehumanizing,” said Ray Halbritter, an Oneida representative, at a press conference in Midtown after the meeting. “The use of the ‘R-word’ is not a unifying force, nor does it convey honor or respect. Quite the opposite. Washington’s team was the name they heard when American Indians were dragged at gunpoint and forced onto reservations.”

While controversy over the Redskins name is nothing new, some momentum has been building in recent days, with President Barack Obama saying this month he would consider changing the name if he were Dan Snyder, the billionaire owner of the 81-year-old team.

Mr. Halbritter called the president’s words “historic.”

But not everything went smoothly yesterday. An Upstate assemblywoman, Claudia Tenney–who has previously accused Mr. Halbritter of backing Casino interests over his own people–interrupted the press conference to heckle Mr. Halbritter with her concerns about his legitimacy as a representative. “I asked him, ‘how are you qualified to be a spokesperson for the Native American people?” she later told The Daily Caller.

“It’s always interesting at an Oneida meeting,” Mr. Halbritter said after she left the room with the threat of hotel security escorting her downstairs.

Despite the outcry, Mr. Snyder, the team’s owner, does not appear likely to change the name anytime soon. In a statement posted on his team’s website, he wrote: “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.”

“We did not get any indication that it would happen today,” Mr. Halbritter said of the meeting, “or anytime in the near future.”

Oneida Leaders Push Washington Redskins for a Name-Change