Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO Ray Halbritter wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that 2013 was a “year of reckoning for the R-word.”
“As the Washington football team’s season draws to a close today, it is safe to say that the year has been entirely forgettable when judged only by the team’s win-loss record,” Halbritter wrote.
“However, when judged by what rose up to challenge that team’s continued promotion of a racial slur, the year will be remembered as a pivotal moment and a triumph.”
In the article, Halbritter, who has fought for the Washington NFL team to change its name, said that the word is a slur that was “screamed at Native Americans as they were forced from their lands at gunpoint. It is a word that, according to public-health experts, continues to have deleterious cultural, psychological and social effects on Native American communities.”
Halbritter said that the media, politicians, and sports teams can no longer ignore the name change debate for fear of backlash from the NFL and the Washington football team’s owner, Dan Snyder.
“The league’s fear-enforced stonewall was shattered as a diverse coalition of civil rights groups, public-health organizations, religious leaders and sports icons was joined by governors, the D.C. Council, Republican and Democratic members of Congress and even the in saying that now is the time for a change.”
Halbritter also said that the Change the Mascot campaign, which has aired numerous radio announcements in each city where the Redskins have played away games, will not go away. Instead, he said that “2013 is the year the campaign against the NFL’s use of this racial slur coalesced into a permanent movement.”
He vowed that the campaign will not go away until the team “either stops using the epithet or, if it won’t do the right thing, the league steps in to take corrective measures.”
Halbritter announced that the campaign will return next season (if the name is not changed) and will only grow stronger in the off-season.
“I have been asked why changing a football team’s word is such an important cause. My answer is simple. The NFL is a $9-billion-a-year business and among the most powerful cultural forces in America. For many people, their most direct contact with the very idea of Native American culture is the Washington team’s name. On billboards, on T-shirts, on hats and on countless TV screens every week, millions of people are told that we are a mascot.”