A name-change movement is growing among clergy members in the Washington, D.C. area. Pastors from D.C., Maryland and Virginia met in the basement of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C., to talk about joining the Oneida Indian Nation's "Change the Mascot" campaign.
“Black clergy have been the conscience of America,” Oneida Indian Nation CEO and representative Ray Halbritter said to the gathering of roughly 40 people at the church, USA Today reported. “This is not a fight we could do by ourselves, or should do by ourselves.”
More than two-dozen clergy pledged last week to take the “R-word” name-change debate to their pulpits in support of the Oneida Nation’s campaign calling for the Redskins NFL franchise to change its name.
During the meeting, Rev. Graylan Hagler’s, the church’s senior pastor, asked for a show of hands to indicate which clergy members would be willing to preach against what he called the “R-word.” More than a dozen clergy raised their hands.
“Collectively, we’re speaking to thousands of people every week,” Hagler said to the group. An additional dozen clergy members had already committed to the cause at a clergy breakfast meeting on Wednesday (October 23rd); and nearly 100 clergy members will talk to their congregations in the coming weeks.
Among the 40 people who gathered in Plymouth’s basement was Suzan Harjo. Harjo, a major figure in the Redskins trademark dispute, said to the group that team mascots tend to be “wild animals, the occasional lug nut and slug, and then us. And that hurts our children,” according to USA Today.
Hagler, who’s spoken out against the team name for more than 20 years, urged clergy members to circulate petitions in their churches and send them to Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, and to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The petition says that the slur “should not be publicly marketed and celebrated in America” and that “as representatives of our faith communities, we believe that this is a moral issue, and we, therefore, have an obligation to step forward to join the ‘Change the Mascot’ movement.”