The United Church of Christ’s Central Atlantic Conference passed a resolution calling for its members to boycott the Washington ‘Redskins’. The church’s 180 congregations and more than 40,000 local members were asked to refrain from supporting the team by buying its merchandise or going to any of the team’s games.
The Washington Post reported that the Conference voted unanimously for the boycott during its annual meeting Saturday in Newark, Delaware. “I hope this debate will continue to draw attention to an unhealed wound in our cultural fabric,” Conference Minister John Deckenback said in a news release. “Changing the name of the Washington NFL team will not solve the problems of our country’s many trails of broken promises and discriminatory isolation of our Native American communities. However, a change in the nation’s capital can send a strong message.”
The church’s central region includes congregations in Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and parts of Virginia and West Virginia. The matter will most likely be brought to the national governing body of the church, which oversees 5,100 congregations with about 1 million members, The Post reported.
Ray Halbritter, CEO of the Oneida Indian Nation, which created the Change the Mascot campaign, spoke to the conference members before they voted on Saturday. “It is truly an honor to partner with and have the support of the United Church of Christ, an organization that has such a historic record standing up for the cause of civil rights,” said Halbritter in a news release. “It is important to have the support of organizations like theirs as we work to relegate one of the last vestiges of racism to the historical scrap heap and come together to usher in an era where mutual respect finally becomes the norm, rather than the exception.”
Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie told the Post, “We respect those who disagree with our team’s name, but we wish the United Church of Christ would listen to the voice of the overwhelming majority of Americans, including Native Americans, who support our name and understand it honors the heritage and tradition of the Native American community.”
The United Church of Christ has a reputation as “the Church of Firsts.” It was the first to ordain an African American, a woman and an openly gay man, the Post said.