In an op-ed on the Huffington Post, Ray Halbritter, CEO and representative of the Oneida Indian Nation, says that the NFL is “endorsing a laudable principle” by instituting a penalty against players who use the N-word on the field. But he questions why that principle is not applied to the R-word, saying that the NFL has remained silent on that issue.
“But in simultaneously saying nothing about one of its own teams’ continued promotion of a racial slur, the NFL is also acknowledging that it is willing to tolerate the very bigotry it claims to oppose,” Halbritter wrote.
Halbritter also points out that the Washington, D.C. NFL team’s name was defined in the dictionary and by the United States Patent Office as a racial slur, but it is not treated as such by the NFL.
“Officially, the NFL has claimed that the ‘R-word’ somehow honors Native Americans,” he says. “They have made this claim even though the word was screamed at my ancestors as they were dragged at gunpoint off their lands. Obviously, this word is not a term of respect. So again, why won’t the league simply do the honorable thing, stand on the right side of history and change the name?”
Halbritter answers this question by referencing ESPN’s Bomani Jones who said that “The NFL is sending the message that racial slurs are only OK if they can monetize them like they do with the Washington Redskins.”
“It would be both misguided and tragic if this were true,” Halbritter says about Jones’s statement. “It would be misguided because there is strong reason to believe that the league would actually benefit from a boost in new merchandise purchases if the team changes its name. More important, it would be tragic because it would signal the league is putting shortsighted financial concerns over the most basic ideals of mutual respect.”
Most recently, Halbritter commented on the NFL’s tax-exempt status after Congressional leaders Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) sent a letter to Roger Goodell objecting to his pre-Super Bowl press conference in which he defended the “Redskins” name as an “honor” to Native Americans.
“While the Washington team somehow claims that Congress has better things to do than intervene in a serious issue that involves taxpayer dollars, it is the exact opposite: Congress has a responsibility to the American people to put an end to this kind of taxpayer-subsidized bigotry,” Halbritter wrote in a press release.
“Native Americans do not deserve to be treated as targets of a racial slur by one of the most famous and powerful brands in the world,” Halbritter said. “We deserve to be treated as what we are. We are not redskins. We are Americans. It is time for the NFL to end its silence and finally compel the Washington team to recognize us as such.”
The rest of the article can be read here.