At the annual meeting of The Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ on Saturday, June 14, a resolution was passed to pressure the National Football League and the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name and refrain from using any images, mascots, or behaviors that are demeaning to Native American cultures or peoples, according to a report in Indian Country Today. This resolution calls for members to do more than just speak out against the use of the name Redskins. It calls for a complete boycott the football team.
The Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ oversees 180 congregations with over 40,000 members from Richmond to New Jersey. During this year’s meeting in Newark, DE the organization voted unanimously for a boycott of the team’s games and gear. The national governing body of the church, which oversees 5,100 congregations and about 1 million members, has said it will review this issue shortly as well.
Rev. Dr. John Deckenback, Conference minister, had this to say about the resolution's passing, "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. I hope this debate will continue to draw attention to an unhealed wound in our cultural fabric.”
The Oneida Indian Nation and the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) attended the Conference's annual meeting and U.S. Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter delivered a statement in support of the resolution, "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. 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." To view Mr. Halbritter’s complete remarks, click here.
Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the NCAI, said, "The name used by the Washington NFL team is widely recognized as a racial slur and promotes discrimination against Native Americans. More and more organizations are joining our voices calling on team owner Dan Snyder and the NFL to change the name, and we are proud that the United Church of Christ and its members are standing with us."
The Washington Redskins franchise officials have not responded. However, the team’s chief financial officer, Karl Schreiber, did call Conference Minister John Deckenback 11 days before the vote to have him speak with three men from the Blackfeet Nation who say they don’t mind the controversial name. The Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ vote comes weeks after 50 U.S. Senators signed a letter calling for the Washington franchise name change. During that same week, a California tribe paid for anti-Redskins ads to run during television broadcasts of the NBA playoffs. Learn more at www.changethemascot.org.
The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a Protestant denomination and is the first mainline denomination to ordain a woman, to ordain an openly-gay man and the first predominantly white denomination to ordain an African American. The UCC’s motto is from John 17:21, “That they may all be one.” Its official tagline is “God is still speaking.” The Church is known for its long-standing commitment and support to social justice issues and its welcome to all, no matter where they are on life’s journey. The UCC is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, and was very active in protests against the MLB Cleveland Indians and its Chief Wahoo mascot.
The Oneida Indian Nation is a federally-recognized Indian nation in central New York and a member of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy. The Oneida Indian Nation is headed by Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter. The National Congress of American Indians was founded in 1944 and is the oldest and largest American Indian and Alaska Native organization.
Halbritter received an standing ovation and thanked the attendees for their support saying, "With your help, we cannot only end this ongoing offense against my own heritage, but we can win a major victory for a more inclusive society. This campaign is no longer only about how the use of this term affects Native Americans, it is about what kind of country we all want to live in."