NCAI And The Oneida Indian Nation Commend Senators In Acting To End Discrimination in the NFL

Published on May 22, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – The Oneida Indian Nation and the National Congress of American Indians today applaud 50 Senators for sending a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell declaring that “it’s time for the NFL to endorse a name change for the Washington, D.C. football team.” 

In the letter to Goodell, the senators note that the NBA recently took a bold stand against racism and encourage the NFL to do the same. “Today, we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message as the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports,” reads the letter. “Now is the time for the NFL to act.  The Washington, D.C. football team is on the wrong side of history.  What message does it send to punish slurs against African Americans while endorsing slurs against Native Americans?”

The letter also notes that all of the country’s national Tribal organizations, which represent more than two million Native Americans, have unequivocally spoken out in support of the name change.

“Washington team owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell have claimed that using the R-word epithet somehow honors Native peoples, but it is quite the opposite," said Halbritter. "The R-word is a dictionary defined racial slur, which likely explains why avowed segregationist George Preston Marshall decided to use the term as the team's name. Continuing an infamous segregationist's legacy by promoting such a slur is not an honor, as Mr. Snyder and Mr. Goodell claim. It is a malicious insult. That is why leaders in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, in the White House, and at all levels of government across the country are uniting in opposition to this offensive and hurtful name.” 

NCAI Executive Director Jackie Pata said: “The name of Washington’s NFL team is widely recognized as a racial slur. The NFL is a global brand, but if it wants to contribute to the positive image of the United States across the world, rather than callously promoting discrimination against Native Americans, then it must stop promoting this slur and finally change the name.” 

In recent months, the campaign to change the Washington NFL team name received strong bipartisan support in Congress from advocates including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Representatives Tom Cole, Betty McCollum and Eleanor Holmes Norton. In addition to federal legislators, policymakers at the state and local levels have also been critical of the Washington team’s continued use of the R-word epithet.  City councils, mayors, governors, and even the President of the United States have spoken out against the ongoing use of the slur.

Just days ago, the New York State Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling upon professional sports leagues to end their use of racial slurs.  The NFL is headquartered in New York, and the resolution specifically cites the Washington NFL team’s R-word mascot as a dictionary-defined epithet. 

Change the Mascot has also received support from civil rights organizations, faith leaders, sports icons, leading journalists, and top Native American organizations.

The full text of the Senators’ letter to Goodell can be found on the Change the Mascot website.  

Subscribe to our News RSS