The Oneida tribe, a Native American nation in New York, are attempting to effect change via a very public ad campaign against the NFL franchise, the Washington Redskins. The change they want is to the perception that it is alright to refer to Native Americans as "redskins." The football team's nickname has been targeted by the Oneida tribe in hopes that it will be replaced with one less racially denigrating.
The Associated Press reported (via Yahoo News) Sept. 5 that the upstate New York tribe is set to launch a radio campaign prior to the first game of the season, Sept. 9, in an effort to put some pressure on the storied football program to consider changing its nickname to something not as offensive. The Redskins take on the Philadelphia Eagles in part of the kick-off of the 2013 "Monday Night Football" double-header on ESPN.
Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter says in the ad: "We do not deserve to be called redskins. We deserve to be treated as what we are — Americans."
The Oneida tribe ad calls attention to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's criticism over the summer of Eagles' wide receiver Riley Cooper when he made a racial slur toward African Americans at a Kenny Chesney concert. Just as he was correct in doing so, the ad insists, Goodell should also "stand up to bigotry" and denounce "the racial slur" that is the nickname of one of the League's most prominent teams.
Ads will run Sunday and Monday on radio stations in Washington before the Monday game. The Oneida Nation says that ads will also run in cities during away games and again in Washington when the team plays at home.
Halbritter noted in a prepared statement: "We believe that with the help of our fellow professional football fans, we can get the NFL to realize the error of its ways and make a very simple change."
But the NFL does not appear to be nearing the realization the Oneida tribe would like to see, at least not yet.
"The name from its origin has always intended to be positive and has always been used by the team in a highly respectful manner," League spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an email to the Associated Press. He said that the NFL respects those "with differing views."
Those "differing views" are shared by Washington mayor Vincent Gray, who has said he would like to see the team change its name. Members of Congress have sent letters to the NFL requesting the name be changed as well, and a bill was introduced in the U. S. legislature to force a name change.
Former Washington Redskins wide receiver and Hall of Famer Art Monk said in July the team should consider a new name.
“[If] Native Americans feel like Redskins or the Chiefs or [another] name is offensive to them, then who are we to say to them ‘No, it’s not’?” Monk told WTOP in Washington.
The Oneida tribe and other Native American activists may have a long fight on their hands, though. Washington owner Steve Snyder has vowed to never change the name as long as he owned the team.
"We’ll never change the name,” he told USA Today in May. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”
And he seems to have the support of most Americans. In a poll conducted by the Associated Press-GFK earlier that same month, nearly 4 out of 5 Americans (79 percent) said they believed that the Redskins should keep the name as is.