The Washington NFL team controversy is going global.
On October 30, 2016 the team is slated to play the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
The event, which is expected to be a sell-out, is meant to attract more British fans to American football with the hopes of eventually opening up a British-based franchise team.
But, naturally, this event is not without controversy.
Wembley stadium has a list of regulations that ban “racial, homophobic or discriminatory abuse, chanting or harassment” and it also observes the Football (Offences) Act 1991 which prohibits racial chanting in sports stadiums.
Ray Halbritter, representative of the Oneida Nation and prominent leader in the movement to change the Washington NFL team name, strongly condemned the decision.
“At a time when the United States is desperately trying to fortify its international relationships, the NFL has decided to go on the world stage and promote an ugly racial epithet slurring indigenous people all over the world,” Halbritter said in a statement. “This is not only offensive, but also at odds with American interests across the globe at this critical time. We need to show respect to our foreign allies – the NFL choosing to slur people of color at a high-profile international event does the opposite.”
The game is part of the NFL National Series, which began in 2007 with the purpose of trying to promote the uniquely American sport abroad. Since its inception, the series has been hosted at Wembley Stadium.
In 2012, Wembley hosted the launch of an international anti-racism partnership between FIFA (soccer’s international governing body) and Kick It Out, an organization dedicated to ending racism in sports.
Hosting a team whose very name is a dictionary-defined racial slur poses a challenge to the stadium’s efforts of equality and inclusion. It remains to be seen how the stadium will choose to respond to the on-going controversy.
Jane Merrick, a columnist with London-based The Independent, on Tuesday skewered the slated arrival of the Washington NFL team, and called on the British Broadcasting Company [BBC] to refuse to use the racial slur in its broadcast of the game this fall.
“The proud history of anti-racism in British sport must not be allowed to die on 30 October,” Merrick wrote.