Members of the Oneida Indian Nation pleaded with the National Football League today to step in and force the Washington Redskins football team to change its name.
Following a closed-door meeting in Manhattan, Oneida representative Ray Halbritter said at a news conference that league commissioner Roger Goodell should insist that the team change its name, despite claims by team owner Daniel Snyder that he would not change the name.
"We requested that the commissioner use his authority to refer Daniel Snyder to the league for possible sanction over the continued use of the term," Halbritter said. "If the commissioner lacks the power to act, he should publicly say so.
"Despite ridiculous assertions to the contrary, the use of the R-word is not a unifying force nor does it convey respect. It is the very word our people heard when they were dragged by gunpoint off their land and dragged onto reservations," Halbritter said.
The NFL released a statement following the meeting noting that Goodell was not in attendance but that the NFL was interested in hearing the varying opinions on the subject.
"We listened and respectfully discussed the views of Mr. Halbritter, Oneida Nation Wolf Clan Representative Keller George and their colleagues as well as the sharply differing views of many other Native Americans and fans in general," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement.
"The meeting was part of an ongoing dialogue to facilitate listening and learning, consistent with the commissioner's comments earlier this year," they said.
Still, Halbritter and others that appeared at the post-meeting conference asked that Goodell, Snyder and other top NFL executives meet again with Oneida members during the week of the Superbowl in 2014, including visiting reservations in order to see how the use of the term "Redskins" affects members.
"We will not be silent on this issue and it's not going to go away, not this time," Halbritter said. "This strikes at the heart of the issue of what kind of future our children will have."