President Obama said if he owned the Redskins he would consider changing the name.
(Photo: Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports)
WASHINGTON -- Panelists lambasted the Washington pro football club's team name as racist and wrong at a symposium Monday.
"This is not going away this time," said Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter, one of the event's organizers.
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The symposium was held to coincide with an NFL owners meeting here this week but the NFL declined an invitation to attend, according to the organizers. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has defended the team name but has also said the league needs to listen to those who are offended.
Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, said Americans are taught through popular culture that American Indians are less worthy than other Americans. He suggested that if the team wants to keep its Indian imagery it should change its name to the Washington Americans.
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Washington team owner Daniel Snyder told USA TODAY Sports in May that he would never change the name. Panelist Michael Friedman, a clinical psychologist, said making such a statement is a form of harassment. Friedman said the Washington team name is damaging to the self esteem of American Indians and carries public health consequences for a community with high rates of suicide.
U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia said that in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Goodell should reach out and meet with the Oneida Indian Nation. "This name is going to go into the dustbin of history," she said.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, said: "Mr. Snyder, change the mascot. ... Pick one that hurts no one."
Students who pushed for change at their school in Cooperstown, N.Y., said they got some pushback from the local community there. Halbritter said if young people like them can understand the issue, why can't grownups who own pro football teams? He also thanked President Obama for saying that if he owned the team, he would consider changing the name.
"This word is mean, rude, impolite," Gover said, "and we would like you to stop using it."